art by caeli harman
art by caeli harman

What you cannot see this Halloween

October 28, 2020

Halloween costumes won’t be the only thing sneaking up on you this October 31st. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Wisconsin is only beginning to see its highest numbers yet, reporting over 3,000 new cases per day, a rate that continues to climb. With the fall season upon us, and the colder weather creeping in, engaging in activities while protecting public health is an adjustment, but not an impossible one. 

Understanding COVID itself is the first step in being mindful of the risks that come with exposure. Oftentimes, discussions like these turn into political brawls, but it’s not about setting up political dominance by wearing a mask, it’s about protecting your health, your family’s health, and everyone else’s that you come in contact with. 

Tim Jones MD, Chief Chair Medical Officer of the Tennessee Department of Health, an internationally renowned epidemiology expert who has served as a consult to the World Health Organization as well as the CDC, breaks down the severity of COVID. 

“COVID is in the class of, essentially like cold viruses, they are very easy to transmit […] One of the things that we worry about is that viruses in this class can mutate pretty fast. If that’s the case, even if we say ‘get a vaccine or get antibody treatments’[…] It can be really hard to read when the virus changes” Jones says. 

While trick-or-treating is a tradition that dates back as early as the eighth century, there are other ways to safely engage in the spirit of Halloween. Going to pumpkin patches, picking apples at a local orchard, carving pumpkins with family, and even going to haunted forests where there is limited contact between people, are considered low to moderate risk activities that meet health guidelines, and are fun ways to fill the remaining fall days. 

As far as trick-or-treating goes, Jones advises families to approach the holiday with caution: “First I would say everyone needs to wear masks–and no Halloween masks, costume masks don’t count–the other big thing is distancing. Just like with school, the grocery store, or anywhere else, stay six feet or more away from someone and spend as little time as possible next to them.”

On the flip side of the equation, for those who want to hand out candy, exercising social distancing is key. Homeowners or business owners can get creative by setting up slides to shoot candy down into trick-or-treaters bags, or even create a makeshift clothesline to hang candy on and roll it out. If you’re less creative, there’s always the option to prepackage candy bags and set them out too. 

In a short interview with Stoughton Mayor Tim Swadley, he also highlights the precautions needed for Halloween this year. As he takes under consideration the posted guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and tips from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, he advises as Jones does, that trick-or-treating door to door can be extremely high risk exposure for both the person who is handing out candy and whoever may be receiving it. 

As far as the Halloween season goes, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing will reach beyond the month of October and into the cold winter months where going to pumpkin patches and apple orchards won’t be a plausible option. When everyone does their part to protect their own health and those around them, the little things add up. So wear a mask, and fall into the season of pumpkin spice everything nice, and follow health officials’ advice.  


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