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Northeast Georgia Medical Center is urging families to follow CDC guidelines on how to safely enjoy the Halloween holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center officials have a key message for families looking to enjoy Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic: be mindful of public health guidelines.

The hospital system with campuses in Gainesville and Braselton is sharing some tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help families enjoy the holiday while minimizing their risk of getting COVID-19.

A big piece of advice is not participate in Halloween-related activities if you are potentially at risk of spreading COVID-19.

"If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters," a tip sheet from the CDC states.

Another tip is to not wear a costume mask over a protective face mask because it could make breathing difficult, and to not use a Halloween mask as a substitute for a protective face mask — unless it has two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face.

A Halloween-themed cloth mask is recommended as an alternative.

The CDC guidelines groups various activities into low, moderate or high risk categories.

"When planning to host a holiday celebration, you should access current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel or reduce the number of attendees," the CDC said.

Some examples of low risk activities include:

• Families carving or decorating pumpkins together and then putting them on display

• Neighbors and friends carving or decorating pumpkins outdoors while maintaining social distancing

• Decorating a residence for Halloween

• Having kids do an outdoors Halloween scavenger hunt where they are given a list of Halloween-themed items to look for while walking through their neighborhood and looking at the holiday displays at each house — and maintaining a safe distance

• Hosting a virtual Halloween costume contest

• Having a family Halloween movie night

• Doing a trick-or-treat search, done in a scavenger hunt style, with the family around the house rather than going to each home in the neighborhood

Some examples of moderate risk activities that families can do include:

•  Doing one-way, grab and go-style trick-or-treating where families can pick up individually wrapped goodie bags. Anyone who prepares the goodie bags is urged to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing them, however.

•  Doing a small group, outdoors Halloween costume parade where social distancing is practiced

•  Doing an outdoor costume party where everyone wears protective masks and practices social distancing

•  Visiting an open-air, one-way walk-through haunted forest attraction that requires protective face mask usage and offers space for people to stay more than six feet away from each other. If there is going to be screaming involved, the CDC recommends extending the distance between people to lower the chances that people will spread the virus that causes COVID-19.

• Going to a pumpkin patch or orchard that either encourages or requires face masks, offers space for maintaining social distancing and where people use a hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins of apples.  

• Gathering friends for an outdoor Halloween movie night where social distancing is practiced. Similar to the haunted forest attractions, the distance between people should be extended beyond the recommended six feet if screaming is anticipated

Some examples of higher risk Halloween activities — which the CDC is urging families to avoid — include:

• Traditional trick-or-treating that involves kids going to the door of a home

• Crowded indoor costume parties

• Trunk or Treat events where cars are lined up in a parking lot and candy is handed out from the trunk

• Indoor haunted houses where attendees are likely to be crowded indoors and screaming

• Taking hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your family

• Using alcohol or drugs, which impair a person's judgement

• Attending rural fall festivals that are not held in your community if you live in an area that is experiencing community spread of COVID-19

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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