Community Impact Newspaper spoke with Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of pediatrics, tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, to get the rundown on some safety tips families can follow as their young ones trick-or-treat.
“We are fortunate to have a COVID-19 vaccine available now, so engaging in Halloween activities will be less risky this year compared to last year,” Weatherhead said in an Oct. 20 news release. “Even though young children are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine yet, having the vaccine available to older kids and adults really changes the landscape in terms of the safety of trick-or-treating this year.”
This comes as Harris County and the city of Houston have reported significant declines in the number of COVID-19 cases with 133 new cases reported Oct. 28. That compares to the nearly 3,000 new cases reported by both entities Sept. 23.
The key to being properly prepared for a visit to a trick-or-treating spot is to know the COVID-19 transmission rates in that community, Weatherhead said.
“It's not uniform everywhere that you go,” Weatherhead said in the news release. “There are places where community transmission is out of control, and it’s not safe to be in that situation without distancing, masking and vaccines. Then there might be another area where the community transition is controlled, and those mitigation strategies aren't as necessary.”
Also important is to get vaccinated if you are within a vaccine-eligible group; that helps prevent transmission within your community and allows for holiday events to be safer, Weatherhead said.
“In mixed-vaccinated company where there are children who can’t receive vaccines yet, having as many adults or older children vaccinated will create a safer environment,” Weatherhead said in the news release.
Adults that are unvaccinated, meanwhile, should wear masks, and all families should keep masks on hand in case they encounter a crowded area while trick-or-treating even outdoors, Weatherhead said. In addition, the safest practice is to maintain distance from individuals in different households if their vaccination status is unknown, and families should ensure that kids wash their hands thoroughly after they get home and before they start digging through their candy stash.
For any high-risk individuals looking to give out candy during Halloween, Weatherhead suggested that in addition to getting vaccinated, they should set up a treat table to keep distance instead of having direct contact with children trick-or-treating and should wear a mask.
Meanwhile, those partygoers looking to celebrate during Halloween should look to do so in an outdoor setting, Weatherhead said.
While COVID-19 does remain top of mind, Weatherhead is also urging families to not forget about getting vaccinated against the flu, which is available for everyone over six months old. Being vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu for those who are eligible is the best way to keep everyone safe and healthy this Halloween, Weatherhead said.
“We want to get back to normal; we want to have these fun activities, and we have the opportunity to do that, but everybody has to do their part to be as safe as possible,” Weatherhead said in the release. “We have the tools, we just have to use them.”