By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – This time of year, lots of people plan for trick or treating. But in new guidelines, the CDC advises caution.

“Our whole year has been different,” says AHN family medicine physician Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher. “Why should Halloween be any different?

The government public health agency lists traditional Halloween activities by high, moderate and low risk.

“I think there are ways to do some of the fun stuff safely,” says Dr. Crawford-Faucher.

High risk includes indoor costume parties, haunted houses, hayrides, and alcohol and drugs, which could cloud judgement.

“It is dangerous to be inside in large groups, especially if you’re yelling or singing or screaming,” Dr. Crawford Faucher says, “And it is dangerous to be close to people without wearing a mask, and touching each other.”

And door-to-door trick or treating? That’s high risk, too.

“I think we’re not going to see, or should not be seeing this year, is the ten kids clustered around your big bowl, all diving in to get the big candy bar. That’s where people spread germs,” she says.

Moderate risk includes costume parades, outdoor movie nights if people are screaming and pumpkin patch excursions.

“You’ve got kids clustering around the big pumpkins to pick them out, and that’s where you’re going to get transmission,” Dr. Crawford-Faucher explains.

Even grab-and-go goodie bags are determined moderate risk.

“If you really want to hand out goodies, then putting them in baggies at the end of your driveway or at a safe place that’s distant where trick or treaters can come up one at a time and get them, that’s a way to do a really fun, traditional activity in a more safe way.”

Activities of low risk include carving pumpkins, decorating your home and scary movie night with just your family.

The recommendations come at a time the CDC has had some credibility problems.

“I think that every time they come out with something new, there’s part of the population, professional and lay, who kind of go, hmm, really?” Dr. Crawford-Faucher says.

But even for Halloween, Dr. Crawford-Faucher says the advice is consistent: “Don’t get close to people, especially in indoor spots. If you have to be close to somebody, keep it outside, and wear a mask.”

Costume masks, especially with holes for the nose and eyes, are not a substitute for a double layer fabric mask that covers the nose, mouth and face. The CDC also does not recommend that costume masks and fabric masks be worn together.

Dr. Maria Simbra