Due to the worldwide pandemic, state and federal health officials do not recommend traditional trick-or-treating for kids this Halloween. It is seen as a high-risk COVID-19 activity.

Halloween should look different this year, said Dr. Kristina Bryant, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Norton Children’s Hospital.

Even trunk-or-treating, an event most often hosted in church parking lots, is not recommended, Bryant said.

Home activities are safest. Getting out in public increases the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“This may be the year to repurpose some holiday traditions,” she said.

For example, Easter egg hunts in backyards are popular with kids in spring. Bryant suggested parents may want to hide Halloween treats in the same fashion as an alternative to public trick-or-treating.

In September, the city-sponsored Trail of Treats, which draws thousands to the Owensboro riverfront each year, was canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

City Manager Nate Pagan and Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said the ultimate decision about trick-or-treating in the city and county will likely be left up to parents and residents alike.

“We could have a Halloween where people who don’t want kids there just turn their lights off, or people who want kids there turn their lights on and set the treats out on the porch,” Mattingly said in a Sept. 22 interview with the Messenger-Inquirer. “Parents make the decisions. Some parents won’t want their kids out and some might. The good news is most of it takes place outside.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kentucky health officials are asking homeowners to avoid contact with trick-or-treaters.

Treats should be given outdoors only. CDC guidelines calls for homeowners to create a station at the edge of the yard and to individually bag treats.

“We don’t want kids reaching into a big bowl of shared treats,” Bryant said.

Also, homeowners should wash their hands well before handling treats, the CDC said, and they should wear masks while working with treats.

State guidance suggests parents should use a disinfectant wipe to clean candy wrappers before giving their kids treats to eat. Never wipe down the food, just the wrapper.

When it comes to costumes, Bryant said traditional Halloween masks are not substitutes for cloth face masks that help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Families need to think of ways in which cloth face masks might be incorporated into costumes.

She does not recommend wearing a cloth mask under a Halloween mask because it can make it difficult to breathe.

Children enjoy many activities at Halloween besides trick-or-treating. Bryant said outdoor activities, such as hayrides or harvesting and carving pumpkins, are safer than indoor activities. Whether in or out, however, children should stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not in their household, and small groups always are safer.

Haunted houses with people screaming inside present a high-risk activity and should be avoided, she said.

Kids take their cues from adults. If parents make non-traditional Halloween activities seem fun, children will be more enthusiastic, Bryant said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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