The coronavirus pandemic has already changed how Halloween will be celebrated in at least one American city.
Los Angeles officials announced Tuesday that door-to-door trick-or-treating will not be allowed this year in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Also on the not allowed list this year for Halloween are gatherings or parties with people not in your household, even if the gatherings are held outside, "trunk or treating" events and any carnivals, festivals, live entertainment and haunted houses, according to guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Officials did provide some alternate suggestions to celebrating Halloween during a pandemic, including car parades and drive-through events, Halloween movie nights at drive-in theaters and dressing up homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations.
MORE: Is Halloween canceled? Here's what parents should consider before trick-or-treating
Los Angeles appears to be the first major city in the U.S. to announce significant changes to the ways Americans traditionally celebrate Halloween.
Whether and how the holiday would be celebrated has been in question as the pandemic stretches on, schools struggle to re-open and the U.S. nears 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Similar to the reopening of schools, how Halloween will look in each community will depend largely on how well-contained, or not, the virus is in the community, according to Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, an assistant professor of pediatrics and director of the pediatric telemedicine program with Columbia University Medical Center.
MORE: What Halloween costumes will be culturally appropriate amid racial reckoning
"I don't want to say that trick-or-treating should be completely canceled," Bracho-Sanchez told "Good Morning America." "It's something that communities are going to have to weigh community by community, and that families are going to have to weigh family by family."
Here are five tips from Bracho-Sanchez to keep kids safe while still having fun on Halloween.
1. Check positive testing rates in your community
When it comes to making a decision about going trick-or-treating or heading to a gathering for a socially distanced Halloween celebration in your neighborhood, Bracho-Sanchez said you should look at how the virus is spreading in your community.
"You want that [positive testing rate] number to be less than 5%, ideally even lower than that," she said. "Then you want to look at the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations. They just give you a sense of how widespread COVID-19 is in your community and sort of the baseline level of virus that you're starting with before you even go out trick-or-treating or to another activity."
Factoring in who you live with is also important when it comes to making a decision on whether to spend Halloween with others this year, Bracho-Sanchez said. If you are an expectant mother with young kids, Bracho-Sanchez said you may want to be careful about protecting the baby -- even though there isn't any data available on the relationship between pregnant moms and the novel coronavirus. And if you live in a multi-generational household, with young kids in the family trick-or-treating, elderly relatives in that home may be put at higher risk.
"Look at your community and look at your family circumstances to try to make some of these decisions," said Bracho-Sanchez.
2. Make a neighborhood action plan
If trick-or-treating is your family tradition, Bracho-Sanchez suggested reaching out to your neighbors to see how you can come together to celebrate Halloween and go trick-or-treating in a safe way.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Some of the topics of discussion that can be brought up include:
- How can residents in the neighborhood make sure everyone is keeping their distance
- How can candy be distributed
- Discuss everyone wearing masks while trick-or-treating
-If houses aren't taking part in trick-or-treating, is there a way to alert the neighborhood?
3. 'Flu before boo'
With fall just around the corner, Bracho-Sanchez noted the possibility of flu season coinciding with a possible second wave of COVID-19.
For that extra layer of protection, she suggested getting the flu shot before Halloween, which many pediatricians like to remember as, "Flu before boo."
"It's so cheesy, but it's so good," she said. "It's a really good reminder to families. It's not just COVID-19, it's also the flu, it's also other viruses. So can you with your community and with your family, come up with a plan to vaccinate everyone against the flu this season to protect kids not only from COVID-19, but also from other illnesses that can be very serious to them?"
4. Wear a mask -- period
Bracho-Sanchez said that masks "absolutely need to be part of the outfit" on Halloween.
"It can match, it can be decorated, you could try to get creative about ways to incorporate it into the costume, but it absolutely needs to be a part of it if your child is above age 2," said Bracho-Sanchez.
5. Get creative to hand out candy
If you decide to participate in trick-or-treating festivities, Bracho-Sanchez suggested thinking about ways to hand out candy creatively this year.
"I'm imagining handing out candy from a distance," she said. "If you don't have a driveway, perhaps you have some sort of method to do it from a distance."
One way she suggested adults distribute candy this year is by setting up a hand-sanitizing station for kids before they reach in candy bowls or skip the candy bowl altogether and opt for the same individually wrapped candy option to give to each child.
"There's a number of things, but again, I think it's going to be really important that adults get together and they plan together in their community and their neighborhood or in their building to make this safe for children and for the adults around them," said Bracho-Sanchez.
Trick-or-treating banned in Los Angeles because of coronavirus: Is it safe in your neighborhood? originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com
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