County health officer says outdoor trick-or-treating is safe this year with precautions

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, October 18, 2021

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase announced that families can enjoy outdoor trick-or-treating on Halloween and outdoor Día De los Muertos celebrations this year provided they take a few simple steps to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“Together, we all need to do as much as we can to protect ourselves and those around us, including young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination,” Mase said in a county statement.

Mase issued a series of recommendations to help families safely navigate the Oct. 31 holiday. They include:

  • Gather outdoors: Indoor activities where people from different households mix — like haunted houses, indoor mazes and Halloween parties where children trade candy after trick-or-treating — are higher risk for everyone, especially for people not yet vaccinated.
  • Wear a face mask that covers your mouth and nose: Vaccinated individuals can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a face mask in indoor public settings. Face masks are recommended in private settings where some people are unvaccinated or are otherwise vulnerable, including people whose immune systems are compromised. A costume mask is not a substitute for a well-fitted face mask that covers your mouth and nose. Avoid wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, which can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.
  • Stay home if you are sick: Do not attend celebrations or participate in activities if you feel sick, or if you have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you are not yet fully vaccinated.
  • Avoid large groups: Maintain six feet distance from people outside your household, such as crowds of children at doorsteps.
  • Keep your hands clean: Take hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently. Remember to wash your hands after coming home, and especially before eating any treats.
  • Greet trick-or-treaters safely: People welcoming trick-or-treaters at the doorstep should wear masks while distributing candy. Instead of inviting children to reach into a communal candy bowl, consider handing out individually wrapped treats or placing them on a table. Do not distribute candy if you are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Mase emphasized that vaccination remains the best protection against infection.

“The upcoming holiday season is an opportunity to reflect on why it is so important to get vaccinated. People who are vaccinated can gather safely with family and friends who have also been vaccinated, knowing they are all protected against severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19,” Mase said.

Walk-in appointments for vaccine first or second doses are accepted at most pharmacies and clinics. Residents also may make appointments at the county’svaccine clinic page or through themyturn.ca.gov web site. Residents who need help making an appointment are encouraged to call the County COVID-19 hotline at 707-565-4667.

To further protect yourself and your loved ones, Mase recommends monitoring yourself for symptoms for 14 days after participating in holiday celebrations. Pay special attention from days 3-7 as this is when people are most likely to develop symptoms, according to a county press release.

Mase also advises that if someone you had close contact with tests positive for COVID, get tested, and if you are not fully vaccinated, stay home to quarantine. If you do not feel well or if you test positive, stay home to isolate yourself regardless of your vaccination status.

COVID-19 tests are free and confidential and information about testing and where to get tested can be found here.

Last fall, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services strongly advised against trick-or-treating and banned gatherings for Halloween and Día de los Muertos.

According to the county, “Since then, more than two in three Sonoma County residents have become vaccinated against the coronavirus, reducing the spread of the COVID-19, serious illness and deaths among fully vaccinated people.”

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org