JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Parents in Johnson City told News Channel 11 that they feel more comfortable partaking in the tradition of trick-or-treating this Halloween.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, announced it would be largely safe for children to participate in trick-or-treating in 2021.
In 2020, many canceled their Halloween plans due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but Chris Martland, a Johnson City dad with a special love for Halloween analytics, devised a scheme to allow all the goblins and ghouls visiting his neighborhood to safely enjoy the holiday.
“There’s, of course safe, responsible ways to do this, so what we did worked pretty well. I had a table laid out, and we had pre-made bags made, and we would kind of see them coming, you can see kids coming, and with a flashlight, I would guide them right to the table, and of course, I’d have the number of bags out so that they knew how many to grab, and it worked pretty well,” the father of two said.
He added that he has collected trick-or-treating data for the past six years and has found that the most popular hour for visitors on Oct. 31, is between 6 and 7 p.m.
“You may find this either interesting or kind of bizarre: I keep detailed analytics of when people are arriving, hour by hour, it’s something I’ve done for six years. Anyway, we did have a downturn, of course, in trick-or-treaters last year, however, we did have quite a few,” Martland said.
He said he felt comfortable keeping the tradition going, even in 2020, before the COVID-19 vaccine became available.
“Well, that’s the wonderful thing, most trick or treating can take place outdoors. Of course, there is the interaction right there at the front door, but again, what we’re doing is we’re putting the table out in the yard so that social distancing can remain intact,” Martland said. “And at no point are we getting too close to the kids and vice versa.”
The vaccine could be a game-changer for many parents.
“We now have the vaccine, of course, I don’t know what the age threshold are at this point, but I mean yeah, that is good news, at least for us adults who have chosen to receive the vaccine so a little bit safer than I guess last year,” Martland added.
One mom excited to return to normal is Karen McGuire. She told News Channel 11 that her family is new to their Johnson City neighborhood but will be enjoying a traditional trick or treat this year.
“We were planning on my brother and sister and their kids are coming over, and we’re just going to trick-or-treat as normal,” she said.
She said her family did participate in Halloween festivities in October of 2020, but that it will feel “better” to get closer to people now that the vaccine has been available for some time.
“It does make me feel a little safer, last year everybody just put their bowls out and we got candy from bowls, and it wasn’t as personable as you could go up and talk to people you know and say ‘Happy Halloween’ or whatever, but yeah, I mean we definitely feel fine about doing it this year just a normal way. It’ll feel good,” McGuire said.
She added that having the vaccine available will “ease everybody’s minds.”
“I feel like enough of us have gotten vaccinated now that it is a lot safer than it used to be,” McGuire said.
McGuire added that her experience during last year’s Halloween activities was dampened by COVID-19.
“At this time last year, we were getting over COVID,” she said. “Me and my whole family and so it was, we were just hanging on to ‘maybe we’ll get over the Halloween and we can take the kids trick-or-treating,’ and we had gotten over it, and Halloween was like our first day unquarantined from it last year.”
News Channel 11 turned to the experts to find out what the safest option is for the holiday that kicks off the festive season.
Dr. Lauren Stout is a pediatrician with Holston Medical Group. She said last year, she and her husband participated in the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating by setting up a candy-and-sanitizer station at the end of their driveway.
She advised that vaccinations are one of the only ways to truly remain safe this holiday season.
“If you haven’t been vaccinated, you have time to at least get one of those doses in before Halloween so I highly would recommend that for our 12 and up population,” Stout said.
She said an available vaccine would be unlikely for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 years before this holiday season, so for them, she suggested masks and requested hand sanitizing.
“Washing your hands before and after each house, so carry some hand sanitizer with you and sanitize as you’re walking up to the house and after you get the candy,” Stout said.
Those who wish to hand out candy were given similar safety suggestions.
“For the adults to be safe is them wearing masks as they’re handing out candy washing or washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizer between each group of kids,” Stout said.
When masking up, Stout suggested that the costume wearer coordinate a facemask with the costume, instead of simply opting for a full face mask with mesh over the eyes and mouth.
“If it’s like a full face mask that really, a lot of times around the mouth around the eyes, there’s mesh, it’s not really protective like for viral transmission, and it’s not really safe, at least from what I’ve read, to wear a mask underneath a mask,” she said.
Stout suggested either pairing a surgical or cloth mask with an outfit, instead of just relying on the built-in mesh in many commercial costumes.