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OPINION: Everyone should refrain from going out on Halloween

While it’s tempting to go out and celebrate Halloween this weekend, it is important to focus on waiting for the threat of COVID-19 to end and find alternative ways to enjoy the holiday. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

CNBC health reporter Christina Farr interviewed 20 medical experts for an Oct. 26 article to make recommendations on how Halloween could continue through the pandemic. They made suggestions such as social distancing, wearing masks and passing candy through a chute from neighbor to trick-or-treater. 

Though they sound like solid ideas to protect kids and their neighbors from potential illness, the most effective way to protect our children is to keep them inside this holiday. America is still struggling to contain COVID-19, and participating in Halloween activities will almost certainly result in cases going up.

The interviewed medical experts agreed a 6-foot distance rule between children as well as between them and neighbors would help eliminate the spread of the virus. The problem here is it will be incredibly difficult to implement social distancing as children go door to door asking for candy.

Medical professionals expect to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases after Halloween. Researchers from the University of Texas made a prediction for CBS in an article on Tuesday that Austin hospitals will need to prepare about 700 hospital beds in the area by the third week of November if Halloween were to continue as normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on its website that fall and winter holidays should be celebrated at home and warned against meeting with other people while the pandemic is still widespread. If people do choose to go out, then they need to quarantine for 14 days prior. 

A few communities have tried to follow the CDC’s recommendations by encouraging their citizens to stay home. The Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued a notice on how to celebrate this year without risking one’s health. The notice asked the community to refrain from going door to door and “trunk or treating.” 

The department suggested doing activities with family or friends online instead, such as to carve pumpkins with family, decorate your home, complete a scavenger hunt around your yard, have a virtual costume contest or host a virtual movie night with friends.

The medical experts from the CNBC article also recommended that everyone wear a mask and transfer candy through a handmade plastic pipe, which are great ideas in theory. If implemented, however, we’d find that they still have their faults. 

Wearing a mask will help, but the CDC states that only N-95 respirators or better are truly effective against the virus. Many people wear cloth masks, scarves or headbands around their mouth which do not prevent droplets from spreading to surfaces and people. The only way for it to work correctly is if everyone wears the proper mask and doesn’t remove it throughout the evening. 

The National Institutes of Health developed a study in 2015 which found that people touch their face an average of 23 times per hour. On Halloween, children will likely touch their faces, which could raise the likelihood of them getting COVID-19 and transmitting it to their families.

A chute would prevent any chance of skin-to-skin contact involving candy but it doesn’t account for both individuals touching the candy. Everyone would have to wear gloves when handling candy along with children not trading candy back and forth for it to be fully effective.

All it takes is one individual from each community to spread the virus. A COVID-19 tracker site called Worldometer stated there are almost 219,000 active cases in Florida and almost 3 million cases in the U.S. as of Oct. 28. That’s more than enough to cause another spike if any of them decide to leave quarantine for even a few hours on Halloween night.

In addition, the CDC currently believes the virus can live on surfaces for many hours or days depending on the material. People handle candy bags as they buy them at the store, knock on doors and ring doorbells. All someone has to do is touch any of these items and then touch their face to get infected.

This should not ruin the holiday spirit. The ideas listed by community groups will prevent large gatherings, stop contact between others and provide ways to enjoy the day. It may not be an ideal situation, but it is essential to put a pause on this year’s festivities to hopefully be able to enjoy Halloween 2021.