County health officials are reminding San Diegans to celebrate Halloween safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials say that traditional Halloween celebrations are strongly discouraged and large gatherings are not allowed under the state or local health guidance.
Trick-or-treating and haunted houses aren't recommended by the county. Trick-or-treating can be difficult to do while maintaining social distancing, and haunted houses can be dangerous because they typically involve several people in a tight and poorly-ventilated space, according to the HHSA.
“These activities involve face-to-face interactions with people from different households,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, County public health officer. “If a COVID-19 infection is detected among a participant, it will be very difficult to find and notify those who may have been exposed.”
According to research published Friday by UC San Diego School of Medicine and San Diego State University researchers, the risk of contracting COVID-19 from handling trick-or-treat candy that has been in contact with a coronavirus-positive person is minimal, but not zero.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes the illness COVID-19, is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets and aerosols. The risk of infection by touching fomites -- objects or surfaces upon which viral particles have landed and persist -- is relatively low, according to multiple studies, even when fomites are known to have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Nonetheless, the risk is not zero.
"The main takeaway is that although the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by surfaces -- including candy wrappers -- is low, it can be reduced even further by washing your hands with soap before handling the candy and washing the candy with household dishwashing detergent afterwards," said co-senior author Rob Knight, professor and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UCSD.
"The main risk is interacting with people without masks, so if you are sharing candy, be safe by putting it in dish where you can wave from six feet away."
Wooten recommends the following safe alternatives:
- Online parties/contests such as costume or pumpkin carving
- Drive-through events and car parades
- Dressing up homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations
- Movie nights with your own household or at a drive-in theater
- Pumpkin patches where people use hand sanitizer and maintain 6-feet of distance from others
“Please be safe and stay healthy this Halloween weekend,” Wooten said. “A boo and a cackle can be great fun, but COVID is definitely not.”
For a list of what's not allowed or recommended and other alternatives, click here.