SALT LAKE CITY — Preparing for Halloween has been a little different this year for Zurchers party supply store.

Without any blockbuster movie releases amid the coronavirus pandemic to help identify what might be a popular theme for costumes this Halloween, the Utah and Idaho-based business has been stocking up on classic costumes.

“We have ordered heavy on all first responder costumes, like policemen, nurses, doctors,” said Kyle Zurcher, co-owner and Halloween buyer for Zurchers. “We are also anticipating hazmat suits to be a big seller.”

Zurchers has ordered child and adult Halloween-themed face masks to go with costumes as well.

“We’re anticipating that we’re still going to be celebrating, even if it’s on a household level,” Zurcher said. “We will stay optimistic and do everything we can to help our customers celebrate and stay healthy.”

Staying safe on Halloween is a typical concern for trick-or-treaters. Spending time outside, late at night when pranksters and tricksters are up to no good. There are parties and large gatherings to consider. Halloween, in a normal year, is a trick night when things go bump in the night.

But 2020 is an even more difficult year to manage. Recommendations nationwide suggest social distancing and mask-wearing. Coronavirus spikes continue to hit throughout the country. Utah has become a hot spot as well.

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So it’s no surprise that the Utah Department of Health recently updated safe Halloween recommendations with the help of partners Intermountain Healthcare and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommendations were released to the Deseret News on Friday, and include making cloth masks part of costumes.

What masks to wear and how to trick-or-treat

The recommendations say Halloween masks do not protect against COVID-19, and wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask can make breathing more difficult. They also say children under 2 and anyone who has trouble breathing should not wear a mask.

The department says trick-or-treaters should stay at least 6 feet away from others, wait to go to a door if there is already a group there, avoid staying at any one house for more than a few minutes, and bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to use after touching objects or other people.

They should also wait to eat candy until the wrappers are cleaned with a disinfecting wipe and hands are washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at home. Anything that is open, homemade or not individually wrapped should be thrown away, according to the document.

“Trick-or-treating is mostly done outside. It is a much better option than an indoor gathering,” the recommendations state. “You can trick-or-treat safely if you wear a cloth face covering and stay at least 6 feet away from people who don’t live in your home.”

The department says those answering the door on Halloween night should avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters, give out treats outdoors if possible, set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, wash hands before handling treats, wear a mask, consider setting up a system to get candy to trick-or-treaters without any physical contact, and not give out anything homemade.

Trunk-or-treats should follow the recommendations for trick-or-treating, with trunk-or-treaters going in a one-way direction and cars parked at least 6 feet apart, according to the recommendations.

What can you do on Halloween?

The document cautions not to participate in Halloween activities if you or someone in your home has tested positive for or been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days, should be in isolation or quarantine, has symptoms of COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results or is at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“Take extra precautions if you are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at higher risk for severe illness,” the recommendations state.

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The department recommends celebrating virtually or with just the people who live in your home and avoiding in-person gatherings with people who don’t live in your home or large gatherings with many people.

“We don’t recommend having a Halloween party with people who don’t live in your home. If you want to have a Halloween party, keep it small and invite only immediate family members,” the document states. “You can lower the risk and make a Halloween party safer by taking precautions and using strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Things to consider include having parties outside, keeping face coverings on as much as possible, asking everyone to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when they get there, staying at least 6 feet away from other families while eating or drinking, not attending parties where people aren’t wearing face coverings, avoiding buffet-style eating, and choosing games or activities that can be done with masks on, according to the recommendations.

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“If you go to an in-person gathering with people who do not live in your household, try to participate in lower risk activities,” the department states.

Among the recommendations are tables outlining examples of lower, moderate and higher risk activities. For trick-or-treating, a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt with family at home is considered lower risk, trick-or-treating in a one-way direction with individually wrapped goodie bags lined up for kids to grab is considered moderate risk, and traditional trick-or-treating without masks and physical distancing is considered higher risk.

“The Utah Department of Health wants everyone to have a great holiday season,” the document states. “These recommendations are to help you make informed decisions and do not take the place of any state or local health or safety guidelines. Before planning any type of holiday gathering or activity, you should check the Utah Health Guidance Level for your community.”

More information is available on the Intermountain Healthcare and CDC websites.

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