St. Louis County advises against Halloween trick-or-treating, screaming and haunted houses due to pandemic

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By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

St. Louis County has issued a rating system for how safe Halloween activities are during the COVID-19 pandemic, and traditional trick-or-treating is classified as a high-risk activity.

The county says its Halloween safety advice rates the various ways to “celebrate Halloween safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Trick-or-treating is not banned by the county, but the county officially recommends against the tradition this year.

The county added, “Although COVID-19 doesn’t take a holiday, it’s still possible to have fun on Halloween.”

The county Department of Public Health produced the following chart to help residents assess the risks of various activities. The only activities considered “safe” are those that take place entirely away from other people.

County Executive Sam Page told reporters Sept. 9, “I think most parents will be cautious about what they’re exposing kids to and what they let them touch really the rest of the fall. … Our health department has not restricted anything beyond mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing — some of those are difficult to do around traditional Halloween activities. We understand this is an important holiday, and we’ll look at how to do it safely.”

But the county officially recommends against screaming at mazes or haunted houses — which are also considered a high-risk activity — because screaming increases the likelihood of spreading the coronavirus by respiratory droplets.

And everyone wearing a costume around other people should also wear a mask underneath the costume, even if it comes with its own mask. The costume mask will not be enough to protect you from COVID-19, health officials said.

Under the county ranking system, green events are considered safe, yellow means use caution, and red means high risk.

High-risk red activities include traditional trick-or-treating door-to-door, any indoor gathering, large outdoor gatherings, celebrating in restaurants or bars that don’t provide sufficient social distancing and public haunted houses.

Yellow activities, or those with risk, include small-group gatherings outdoors, with participants socially distanced and wearing masks; outdoor mazes, with socially distanced and masked participants; and drive-thru trunk-or-treat events.

The county says to avoid screaming at mazes or other such events because it can spread COVID-19 easier.

Low-risk green activities recommended by the county include home decorating; pumpkin carving at home; a candy scavenger hunt on your property for family members; watching Halloween movies or playing games online virtually with friends; virtual costume parties — the county recommends awarding prizes for best costume; hosting virtual family get-togethers; and leaving individual portions of wrapped candy outside.

Any large gathering, including block parties, haunted houses and other holiday gatherings, must submit a safety plan to the county Department of Public Health and have it approved before opening. Email business-covid@stlouisco.com. This includes all public entertainment events like Oktoberfests, and the plan must be submitted 10 days in advance.

For more ideas on how to celebrate safely, visit stlcorona.com.

Whatever options you choose at Halloween, stay at least 6 feet away from others, wear a cloth or surgical face mask when in public because a costume mask is not enough, wash your hands frequently, avoid screaming around others and have fun.

Two local attractions have set up drive-thru and walk-thru experiences for Halloween: Grant’s Farm will reopen for the first time in the pandemic, giving visitors the chance to drive through the grounds for the first time ever and Union Station will set up spooky walk-thru train cars.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the original version that included placing individually wrapped candy outside in both the green and yellow rankings, based on incorrect information sent out by the health department. The correct rankings are included below.