The Division of Public Health has released guidance to safely participate in fall festivities, including Halloween activities, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new guidance categorizes activities by risk – low, moderate and high risk. Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. Delawareans can reduce that risk by organizing and participating in fun, low- or moderate-risk alternatives. The guidance emphasizes the importance of social distancing and face covering use when participating in any Halloween activities.
As the virus is still active in our communities, DPH continues to urge Delaware residents to practice everyday prevention steps: Wear a face covering, physically distance from others, wash your hands, and avoid gathering in large groups.
“We know this is typically a fun time of year for communities and families, and we absolutely want that fun to continue,” said Director Karyl Rattay, “But it is more important than ever that we do so safely and in a way that does not further increase the risk of virus transmission for ourselves, our families and our neighbors. We can still enjoy a happy and healthy Halloween this year even if it looks a little different from previous years.”
Nearly all local Halloween events, including the popular Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach, have been canceled.
Traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating in which treats are handed out to each child, without safety modifications, should not take place and need to be avoided.
Traditional trick-or-treating poses additional risk because of the large number of hands reaching in candy bowls. According to health officials, if you choose to take part in some traditional Halloween activities, make sure to modify the activities and take precautions to lower risk.
• Wear cloth face coverings at all times. Most Halloween masks are not protective enough to be considered face coverings
• Provide treats without direct contact. Place individual treat portions on your porch and interact with treaters from at least 6 feet away with everyone wearing a face covering or through a window. Make sure to sanitize your hands between treat handling
In addition, all indoor activities with people outside of your household should be avoided, including:
• Indoor parties, like costume parties
• Indoor haunted houses unless they have proper precautions in place
Officials emphasized that Delawareans should avoid high-risk activities, where face coverings and other requirements are not enforced.
• Pumpkin carving and decorating
• Hosting a virtual costume contest, Halloween get-together or drive-by decoration viewing with friends and neighbors
• Halloween movie marathon
• Scavenger hunt rather than going house to house
Other fall activities
• Host open-air, socially distant gatherings
• Find a farm where to pick pumpkins or apples. Be sure to frequently sanitize, wear a face covering and maintain 6-feet social distancing from individuals who don’t reside in your household.
• Make sure a a farm, store or stand requires everyone kindergarten age and up to wear face coverings and is taking other steps to keep people socially distanced and safe
• Attend trunk-or-treat events with proper social distancing and face covering requirements in place along with other precautions. Larger events of more than 250 people must have a DPH-approved plan (plans may be submitted to HSPContact@delaware.gov)
A different Winter WonderFest
Winter WonderFest will return this holiday season at Hudson Fields near Milton – with some changes due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. Organizers Festival of Cheer Inc. say the event will be drive-through only with no carnival rides and games, restrooms, hayrides, ice skating or Schellville.
This year's event will be open daily Nov. 20 through Dec. 31.
WonderFest will feature an enhanced drive-through light-show experience, including a drive-through Santa’s workshop complete with Santa presiding over a number of elves at work at the North Pole.
A glass box will be placed alongside the car route inside the workshop for children to drop their wish lists. The children can then watch a Christmas elf take their list and hand deliver it to Santa.
State of emergency since March 13
Gov. John Carney has extended the COVID-19 state of emergency for another 30 days. The state of emergency was enacted at 8 a.m. on March 13, nearly seven months ago.
COVID-19 by the numbers
The number of school students and staff positive cases reported to health officials as of Oct. 1: childcare, 20; private K-12, 25; and public K-12, 28.
The numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths have seen an increase over the past two weeks. The numbers include an outbreak at Country Rest Home near Greenwood where 26 residents and 15 staff tested positive.
Overall, 642 Delawareans have died from complications due to COVID-19 – 380 of those were in long-term-care facilities and 207 were from Sussex County.
COVID information contacts
For information about COVID-19, medical or social service needs, call Delaware 211 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Questions can also be submitted by email to DPHCall@delaware.gov.
COVID Alert DE, Delaware’s free COVID-19 exposure notification app, can be downloaded using AppStore or Google Play.
For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.
Some Halloween events, with health-related restrictions, are still on the schedule.
This is Halloween will be presented by The Revival House, Hudson Fields and Beebe Medical Foundation to benefit Beebe Healthcare starting at 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25, at Hudson Fields near Milton. Following the format of the successful Jawsfest, the event will feature food trucks and entertainment capped off with two films at dusk – “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Halloween.” Limited candy will be available for young trick-or-treaters.
The event is free and open to the public, but donations will be accepted at the door with all proceeds going to Beebe Healthcare whose workers are on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, go to revivalhousetheater.com. Viewing pods for the movies are on sale.
Screams at the Beach is taking place at 35553 Atlantic Ave., Millville. The trail is open from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in October. Get more information and buy tickets at screamsatthebeach.com.
Frightland, located at 309 Port Penn Road off Route 1 near Middletown, is open Fridays and Saturdays in October, some Thursdays and the first weekend in November. Go to frightland.com for more information and to purchase assigned-time tickets.