JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Drive down Park Street in Jacksonville’s Avondale neighborhood and it’s hard to miss Victoria and Tom Broering’s Halloween display. The cornerstone: an inflatable cat standing 21 feet tall.
The festive decorations are something the family does every year around the same time. And even though this year promises to be different, the Broerings wanted to keep this tradition going strong. The only change? This year’s theme is spiders, which was what the couple’s 7-year-old daughter wanted.
“We actually thought about putting our decorations up earlier during quarantine,” Victoria Broering recalled during an interview with News4Jax. “I was like, ‘Why don’t we decorate the house? People are walking around anyway. Maybe they’ll love seeing the 21-foot cat.'”
The family said canceling Halloween wasn’t an option. Fortunately for them, doctors at Orange Park Medical Center say it doesn’t have to be.
“I would say you’re okay to take the kids outside for limited trick-or-treating, but recognize it’s going to be very different from last year and prepare the entire family with the new safety rules,” said Dr. Jennifer Chapman, an emergency room physician.
“If you live in an area where there is still a high incidence of COVID-19 neither I nor the CDC recommends trick or-treating door-to-door."
One way you can check that is by going to Halloween2020.org — set up by Harvard Global Health Institute.
There is an interactive map that details COVID risk level by county. Even if you live in an area with a low prevalence of COVID-19 cases you still want to be sure and take a few extra precautions.
Both the CDC and Florida Department of Health say masks are a must.
Dr. Kristin Englund with the Cleveland Clinic says a two-layer cloth mask will provide the best protection, but she does not recommend putting a costume mask over it.
“To have a mask on that we know is protective against transmitting COVID and then to try and put another costume mask over the top of it, it’s probably not going to be an easy fit,” said Dr. Englund. “It’s going to be difficult to try to breathe in, and it’s just going to cut down on the amount of fun you’re trying to have on trick-or-treat, so let’s stick with the cloth masks.”
It’s recommended to limit your group to just your family, or three or four kids at the most. Choose wisely — friends that you know have been practicing social distancing and limiting their own exposure as well.
Experts point out that trick-or-treat exchanges at houses need to be brief and socially distanced.
As an extra note of caution, Dr. Chapman recommends staying away from communal candy bowls.
“This year it would be safer to not have little hands in big candy bowls and digging out the pieces they like the most," Chapman said. “I would also encourage kids to use hand sanitizer throughout the route and wash hands often and especially before eating.”
Chapman said each family needs to weigh the decision of whether trick-or-treating is worth it to you and your family based on your specific situation.
Tell us how your family is celebrating Halloween. Are you planning to go trick-or-treating or not?