Celebrate Halloween in Overland Park while staying well

By Morgan Cormack for the City of Overland Park

Cities across the country and in the area are shutting down Halloween celebrations due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to not trick or treat door-to-door this year to avoid virus spread.

Overland Park does not regulate Halloween hours. This is true regardless of the current public health situation.

So if you don’t want to cancel the annual night of dressing up and trick-or-treating for the kids, experts say you can still celebrate the spooky holiday with the family in Overland Park, but things will be different.

“There are ways to do it safely,” Dr. Gabe Schifman, medical director of pediatric emergency medicine at Overland Park Regional Medical Center says.

“You must wear a mask, but not those scary Halloween ones.”

Costume Basics: Mask Up

Halloween costume masks don’t replace face masks.

The CDC says a mask won’t be effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus unless it has two or more breathable layers and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.

Don’t double up on face masks, either, because that could cause shortness of breath.

Experts recommend wearing a fabric face mask that covers your nose and mouth, either in a Halloween print or a design that matches a costume.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment also says everyone in the group should wear a mask.

Kids can even get creative and decorate them with fabric markers or other Halloween decorations.

Trick-or-treating, COVID style

If you choose to go trick-or-treating, play it as safe as possible.

Don’t go house-to-house together in a bigger group, and use hand sanitizer in between every candy stop.

“Stay with your immediate family or people that are in your close circle,”  Schifman says. “This minimizes your exposure and risk. You should also stay six feet apart from other groups, and move out of the way on the grass or sidewalk when you see another group coming by.”

Share candy, not coronavirus

What about giving out candy?

If you want to hand out treats, Schifman says you can, but carefully. He suggests having candy wrapped individually rather than all together in a bowl.

JCDHE says you should understand the level of risk you’re willing to take. If you put out a bowl of candy, many people will touch it, posing a possible risk for infection.

Closer contact with others inside or outside equals a greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

You should also wear a protective mask when answering the door for trick-or-treaters.

There are ways to get creative with how you hand treats out. “We have a slide at my house,” Schifman says. “It’s about 8 feet long and we’ll slide candy down it to give to the kids that come by.”

JCDHE says you can put tape marks six feet apart. The County also suggests having some fun – line up wrapped, individual goodie bags for families in front of your home.

Other spooky celebrations

There are other ways to safely celebrate Halloween this year, too. Exchanging candy with close family members or families you know is an option. You can drop them off at the door.

Going to the pumpkin patch? It’s ok to visit because you can spread out and social distance.

How about a costume contest? The CDC says doing one virtually can be fun for family and friends, but also prevents the spread of COVID-19.

Want to hold a spooky scavenger hunt in the neighborhood? No problem, says JCDHE, as long as everyone keeps their distance.

Overland Park will also hold its annual Trunk-or-Treat celebration virtually this year. Sign up through October 16.

Be sure to use the hashtag #2020TrunkOrTreatOPPD to show off your Halloween spirit.

A note from the editor:

Overland Park is working with community writers to bring you important news, information and stories regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the City’s response to coronavirus.