Typically during this time of the year in this space we offer our annual tips and suggestions for a safe Halloween: mask visibility, dark streets, checking your sweets and other cautionary tales among those.

This is not a typical year.

This year, the holidays — Halloween included — will be nothing like many of us have ever experienced. Small familial gatherings, fewer instances of trick or treating and a lack of festive parties will limit the current holiday in ways only an early High Country snow storm can approach. A pandemic has that effect.

Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us, those limitations need not mean we ignore the impending festivities.

Beginning with Halloween, a caveat: The CDC warns that “many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses … and if you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with the virus, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.”

Beyond this, for those who are healthy, the CDC has categorized activities as lower, moderate and higher risk.

Lower risk activities include carving pumpkins with your family, or, at a safe distance with neighbors and friends. Decorating your home, walks to admire the homes of other at a distance, hosting a virtual costume contest, having a scary Halloween movie night with people you live with and a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search around your home are safe alternatives to traditional activities.

Moderate risk activities include one-way trick-or-treating with individually wrapped goodie bags for families to take while social distancing, outdoor costume parades with participants more than 6 feet apart, a costume party with people socially distanced (note, a Halloween mask does not substitute for a COVID mask), an open-air, one-way walk-through haunted forest, visiting pumpkin patches and a Halloween movie night with people spaced at least 6 feet apart (or further apart if screaming is likely).

Higher risk activities include traditional trick-or-treating, crowded costume parties indoors, indoor haunted houses, hayrides with others not of your family and traveling to rural fall festivals not in your community.

And of this last category, the CDC offers a one-word suggestion: Avoid.

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Tom Mayer is the executive editor of Mountain Times Publications, a group of five news newspapers, six websites and one monthly periodical in the High Country of North Carolina.

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