Halloween isn’t canceled: Staying safe during spooky celebrations

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Though many Halloween events have been canceled this year because of the pandemic, some trick-or-treaters are still expected to be out collecting candy. Accounting for COVID-19 concerns, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Dr. Alexander Samuel is the Director of the Chesterfield Health District. He tells 8News that staying safe this year might mean making changes to a Halloween costume in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“There’s been a lot of discussion around what constitutes an appropriate type of face covering, and I think the discussion is more or less settled around the fact that the CDC recommendation for a face covering should be something that covers your face and nose and fits relatively snugly,” Dr. Samuel said. “The challenge with the mask that you might buy, the Halloween mask that you might buy at a store, is that they’re not designed to protect against respiratory droplets. They don’t fit snugly, and often times they have openings, naturally, to allow people to breathe, so it would be best to have the face covering on.”

However, wearing a costume mask along with a face mask designed to protect against respiratory droplets that can spread COVID-19 can make it difficult to breathe.

Traditional trick-or-treating is considered a higher-risk activity by the CDC. Although being outside can mitigate some of the risk, Dr. Samuel says further protection is necessary.

“Trick-or-treating, just kind of by virtue of the fun and the congregate nature of it, there’s a tendency for folks to get together and have that sort of fun and trick-or-treat together,” Dr. Samuel said. “I think that the issue with regard to higher risk is that potential to get together, kind of get within the six-foot social distancing boundary, and to be potentially exposed if one does not follow the face covering recommendations.”

The Buonconsiglio family will have candy set up outside on Halloween to distribute to trick-or-treaters while maintaining social distancing. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

Following CDC guidelines does not have to mean passing on the Halloween festivities altogether.

Halloween is Chester resident David Buonconsiglio’s favorite holiday, and he tells 8News that he was heartbroken by the thought of not being able to celebrate.

“This year, we didn’t even start [preparing for Halloween] until it was already October because we weren’t sure what was happening, how the world was going,” Buonconsiglio said. It was really hard to say which way it was going to go.”

Trying to make the best of the situation, the Buonconsiglio family was inspired by a video on Facebook to make trick-or-treating during the pandemic a viable option.

“Someone had built a ropeway with a ghost with a couple baskets on it that goes down, the kids can take the candy from the baskets,” Buonconsiglio said. “How can we get, what kids do come out, how can we make them happy?”

Instead of standing on the front porch and waiting for trick-or-treaters to ring the doorbell, Buonconsiglio decided to construct a more socially-distant option at the end of the driveway.

“We developed this little slide thing. It’s not much,” Buonconsiglio said. “We used some PVC pipe, some black cheese cloth, some LED lights, make it look pretty, a ladder and a saw horse we already had at the house.”

With the help of his wife, David Buonconsiglio constructed this “slide” to send candy down to trick-or-treaters from a distance. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

Using tongs, Buonconsiglio picks up candy from a plastic cauldron, drops it down the pipe, and the candy falls into the basket of a trick-or-treater, all while abiding by CDC guidelines. The Buonconsiglio family has even taped orange glow sticks to the driveway, spaced six feet apart, to remind Halloween visitors to keep their distance from each other.

“On Halloween night itself, that’s my favorite part, is seeing all the different costumes,” Buonconsiglio said. “Who’s dressed as what, who’s got what ideas, who got the homemade costume, who’s got the store-bought costume, whose parents are professionals and make costumes.”

As for Buonconsiglio himself, the avid Star Wars cosplayer is still debating which of his six professional-grade costumes to pull out of the closet.

With creativity like this, Dr. Samuel says having a safe and fun Halloween remains a possibility.

“I think it really boils down to this whole idea of ensuring adequate distancing, wearing masks, and that will, just by virtue of those two things, adjust a normal practice. But it doesn’t have to do away with the fun that can be had,” Dr. Samuel said. “It’s not just ourselves that we’re protecting; it’s our loved ones that we’re protecting, it’s individuals who are two or three degrees removed from our social circles that we’re protecting, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

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