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Is It Safe To Go Trick-Or-Treating This Halloween?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This pandemic has dropped several unwinnable conundrums on the stoops of parents around the country. But we like to think that ingenuity is the American way, and so we bring you Halloween in the time of the coronavirus.

REBECCA BADINER: We'll do a table at the end of the driveway. And then we pre-bagged candy, so just got little, like, treat bags, washed our hands, put on our gloves and just sort of did an assembly line. We'll probably just sit in the front yard with our little guy and just kind of watch people come up and take them.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That is Rebecca Badiner of Bethesda, Md. Badiner joins people around the country who refuse to give up on a spooky, sugar-fueled Halloween this year but who also refuse to endanger their neighbors.

KELLY: That is right. All over social media, people are posting their Halloween-night plans, which vary from candy catapults to elaborate PVC pipe shoots down the driveway. But even with contraptions and social distancing, epidemiologist Seema Yasmin says parents and kids need to be really careful.

SEEMA YASMIN: Does that mean that Halloween is totally canceled? No, not necessarily. But it means you're going to have to take extra measures that you wouldn't have to if there wasn't a pandemic raging through the country.

CHANG: Yasmin says there is a high risk of getting sick associated with normal Halloween trick-or-treating.

YASMIN: Basically, what you're trying to do is, whatever activity you're thinking of your kids and yourself getting involved in, you're thinking, how can we make it safer? How can we make sure that we're doing it in an outdoor space where there's more air circulating? How can we make sure people are wearing masks and doing physical distancing as much as possible?

CHANG: And what about the risks of getting sick by, say, touching a prepackaged candy on a table at the end of a driveway?

YASMIN: There is a risk of transmission via surfaces, but it seems to be a lot lower than transmission directly from a person's droplets, say, where they're sneezing or talking.

KELLY: Health officials say this holiday season must be different than those in the past. Rebecca Badiner gets that. It's just hard to imagine her 3-year-old son not partaking in some kind of normal activities this year.

BADINER: I think parents of any age kid are just trying to find any activities, so, you know, ways of stretching out Halloween to make it even more fun. So he's young enough that carving pumpkins, raking leaves, you know, putting - getting to put on gloves and make candy bags still seems fun.

CHANG: In the end, epidemiologist Yasmin says it's about risk assessment. Check transmission rates in your area. Check local regulations. And if you do decide to go out this Halloween, the trick is safety. And the treats - well, they may be coming to you from a catapult this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAY PARKER, JR. SONG "GHOSTBUSTERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.