After a 2020 Halloween spent in costume trick-or-treating between bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms, we’re all looking forward to grabbing king-sized candy bars from our neighbors this year.
But we’re still fighting COVID-19, so how can we make sure kids are trick-or-treating safely?
Dr. Emily Sickbert-Bennett, the director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention, tells The News & Observer that she will be trick-or-treating in a small group with her family this year.
We spoke with her to learn what to do — and what to avoid — this Halloween.
What are the best safety tips for avoiding COVID on Halloween?
▪ Vaccination is key: “Avoiding shared candy bowls is a less important infection prevention strategy than vaccination, which is most important for those eligible,” Sickbert-Bennett said.
▪ Masking is next most important for those eligible for vaccinations, Sickbert-Bennet said, and should be practiced, too. Thankfully, masks go well with lots of costumes, so all trick-or-treaters (and those accompanying them) should sport them as much as they can.
▪ Physical distancing from others is third most important — and very important if you are not masked.
What are the best and worst candies to give and receive during a pandemic Halloween?
▪ Do: Choose commercially prepared, individually wrapped candies, Sickbert-Bennett said. This is the safest way to enjoy Halloween treats in a pandemic.
▪ Don’t: Don’t buy a jumbo bag of M&M’s and Ziploc them yourself. And don’t give out homemade caramel apples to the trick-or-treaters on your block this year. Stick to the individually wrapped candy you can get from the store.
Should we be worried about the spread of germs through Halloween candy?
▪ Germs don’t survive well on surfaces: “Disinfecting the outside surfaces of candy is not necessary before eating, as most germs don’t survive very well on surfaces and surface transmission has not been shown to be a primary mode of spread for COVID,” Sickbert-Bennett said
“The candy should be individually packaged and the candy should be directly handled with clean hands.”
▪ Wash your hands before eating any of your candy: This is important to prevent spread of many types of infectious diseases, Sickbert-Bennett said. Everyone should avoid directly handling food with unwashed, unsanitized hands.