Mayo Clinic doctors recommend against traditional trick-or-treating due to pandemic

Mayo Clinic doctors are recommending parents avoid allowing their children traditional trick-or-treating this year for Halloween as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

Doctors say with trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities, there is an increased risk for transmission.

Speaking with members of the media on Friday, Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Mayo, said parents should seek alternatives that will allow for fun but limit the risk.

Mayo is recommending against trick-or-treating, indoor parties, and haunted houses.

"Halloween is not cancelled, we are just celebrating in a different way this year," said Dr. Rajapakse.

Rajapakse says interaction with a beggar trick-or-treating increases COVID risk as a candy exchange includes close proximity within six feet. With screaming often encouraged with the holiday, she recommends people stay even further apart than six feet to avoid transmitting respiratory droplets.

Plus the coronavirus can live on surfaces including candy wrappers. Even a short interaction without a mask is considered a heightened risk. And the Mayo Clinic warns costume masks are not as protective as cloth masks and wearing both can create other dangers including a child having trouble breathing.

"That lowers your risk, it doesn’t eliminate your risk," said the doctor. "That’s why trick-of-treating has still been categorized as a higher-risk activity."

For Dustin Koble, the manager of five Halloween Express stores, he says business has been steady despite the pandemic problems.

"We've been selling a lot of bigger animatronics, things to jazz up the yard," he said.

Still, just two weeks away, plenty of shoppers are conflicted about their exact Halloween plans in a pandemic.

"We are not sure yet," said one shopper. "At the very least, we’ll do a scavenger hunt if we can’t go trick-or-treating."

Dr. Rajapakse applauds the private scavenger hunt idea, adding anything that brings people from different households interacting together increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, which is a concern with cases on the rise in the Midwest.

"In some areas, we are seeing surges unlike anything we have seen in any other prior period of this pandemic," explained Dr. Rajapakse. "And that's very concerning as we go into the cooler weather and people spending more time indoors."

This past week, Minnesota and Wisconsin has seen new records for daily new case reports while other indicators have been on the rise.

"A lot of it comes down to pandemic fatigue," explained Dr. Rajapakse. "We've all been at this for 10 and a half months now. People are understandably concerned and getting tired of all the sacrifices we've all had to make."

But, the doctor says we can't let the fatigue allow us to make unwise decisions.