With the world on pause and events postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it feels as though the rest of 2020 is canceled.
But with the holidays ahead and Halloween just around the corner, some experts are saying that the spookiest time of the year doesn't have to be completely canceled as long as kids and families are complying with social distancing orders and rules set by communities -- especially when it comes to trick-or-treating.
"I don't want to say that trick-or-treating should be completely canceled," Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, an assistant professor of pediatrics and director of the pediatric telemedicine program with Columbia University Medical Center, told "Good Morning America." "It's something that communities are going to have to weigh community by community, and that families are going to have to weigh family by family."
From handing out candy to making face masks part of costumes on Oct. 31, Bracho-Sanchez tackles five ways to keep kids safe while still having fun on Halloween.
1. Check positive testing rates in your community
When it comes to making a decision about going trick-or-treating or heading to a gathering for a socially distanced Halloween celebration in your neighborhood, Bracho-Sanchez said you should look at how the virus is spreading in your community.
"You want that [positive testing rate] number to be less than 5%, ideally even lower than that," she said. "Then you want to look at the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations. They just give you a sense of how widespread COVID-19 is in your community and sort of the baseline level of virus that you're starting with before you even go out trick-or-treating or to another activity."
Factoring in who you live with is also important when it comes to making a decision on whether to spend Halloween with others this year, Bracho-Sanchez said. If you are an expectant mother with young kids, Bracho-Sanchez said you may want to be careful about protecting the baby -- even though there isn't any data available on the relationship between pregnant moms and the novel coronavirus. And if you live in a multi-generational household, with young kids in the family trick-or-treating, elderly relatives in that home may be put at higher risk.
"Look at your community and look at your family circumstances to try to make some of these decisions," said Bracho-Sanchez.
2. Make a neighborhood action plan
If trick-or-treating is your family tradition, Bracho-Sanchez suggested reaching out to your neighbors to see how you can come together to celebrate Halloween and go trick-or-treating in a safe way.
Some of the topics of discussion that can be brought up include:
● How can residents in the neighborhood make sure everyone is keeping their distance
● How can candy be distributed
● Discuss everyone wearing masks while trick-or-treating
● If houses aren't taking part in trick-or-treating, is there a way to alert the neighborhood?
3. 'Flu before boo'
With fall just around the corner, Bracho-Sanchez noted the possibility of flu season coinciding with a possible second wave of COVID-19.
For that extra layer of protection, she suggested getting the flu shot before Halloween, which many pediatricians like to remember as, "Flu before boo."
"It's so cheesy, but it's so good," she said. "It's a really good reminder to families. It's not just COVID-19, it's also the flu, it's also other viruses. So can you with your community and with your family, come up with a plan to vaccinate everyone against the flu this season to protect kids not only from COVID-19, but also from other illnesses that can be very serious to them?"
4. Wear a mask
Bracho-Sanchez said that masks "absolutely need to be part of the outfit" on Halloween.
"It can match, it can be decorated, you could try to get creative about ways to incorporate it into the costume, but it absolutely needs to be a part of it if your child is above age 2," said Bracho-Sanchez.
5. Get creative to hand out candy
If you decide to participate in trick-or-treating festivities, Bracho-Sanchez suggested thinking about ways to hand out candy creatively this year.
"I'm imagining handing out candy from a distance," she said. "If you don't have a driveway, perhaps you have some sort of method to do it from a distance."
One way she suggested adults distribute candy this year is by setting up a hand-sanitizing station for kids before they reach in candy bowls or skip the candy bowl altogether and opt for the same individually wrapped candy option to give to each child.
"There's a number of things, but again, I think it's going to be really important that adults get together and they plan together in their community and their neighborhood or in their building to make this safe for children and for the adults around them," said Bracho-Sanchez.
There are still many ways that adults can help get the virus under control before Halloween, she urged.
"We still can get this virus under control if entire communities really, really take this seriously, if everyone wears a mask, everyone keeps their distance, everyone stays home who's sick and everyone washes their hands," she said, echoing comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.