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Happy Halloween?

Celebrating ‘good for families, kids’

“Pandemic Halloween” sounds like the title of an Edgar Allen Poe short story.

But it’s coming, and it’s not fiction.

To deal with the coronavirus danger this holiday, a common trick-or-treat accessory — masks — could prove useful, coupled with social distancing and sanitizing hands, even as some parents may keep their kids at home and their porch lights off to mitigate the risk.

Yet going out and having fun could actually shrink a different kind of risk — that of disappointment building to critical levels due to repeated cancellation of ordinary fun for kids, according to Altoona Fire Chief Tim Hileman.

With the right universal precautions, the holiday can be an opportunity for families to fortify their “resilience,” to give themselves a break and arm themselves to further endure a crisis with no definite endpoint, according to Hileman.

“Milestones — birthdays and holiday celebrations — are important to our well-being,” Hileman said. “Continuing the things that everybody believes are good for families and kids.”

People can minimize the hazard by incorporating masks into costumes, limiting the amount of time they spend in groups, being aware of touching surfaces that could be contaminated, like hand rails and doorknobs, and by using hand sanitizer or soap and water, Hileman said.

“You have to be serious about it,” he said. “Do it smartly.”

But if people are unwilling to take the risk or if someone is especially vulnerable, families can still have fun at home by making an apple pie or some other fall recipe or by doing a craft project or having a game night, he said.

For past Halloweens, his family has held pumpkin-carving contests, ending up with five or six jack-o’-lanterns on their porch, he said.

“We want kids to have fun (but to) be safe,” said Logan Township Manager Tim Brown, who suggested following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines if and when those come out.

“(And) use common sense,” he said.

In late August, Congress asked the CDC to update its trick-or-treat safety recommendations to take COVID-19 into account, but that seems not to have happened yet, as the CDC website contains only the traditional suggestions about walking in groups with a trusted adult, holding flashlights and using reflective tape to make it easier for drivers to see trick-or-treaters, eating only factory-wrapped candy that strangers hand out and being careful around lit candles.

The state Department of Health likewise hasn’t put out new guidelines, but they’ll be coming soon, said spokesman Nate Wardle.

“I’m more worried about kids getting hit by cars,” said City Manager Ken Decker, who urged those who give out candy to splurge on full-sized bars, like a neighbor — “she was a saint” — in his Montana hometown many years ago.

People in Spirit Halloween at Logan Valley Mall on Friday seemed unfazed about the prospect of pandemic trick-or-treating.

“This whole thing has already blown over to me,” said Assistant Manager Heather Orberg.

She was worried at first, in the spring.

Now it seems like “the longest game of cooties” ever, she said.

She acknowledged the disease can be deadly, but she has a strong immune system, she said.

Her seasonal store, part of a national chain, opened this year on Aug. 8, and so far has probably done more business than in a normal year, with people looking forward to the relief of a holiday, she said.

No one has asked, however, for a coronavirus-themed costume, she said.

Nor does the store have any of those available, she said.

Customers Presley Cornell and Dylan Weyant weren’t worried about COVID-19 as they shopped for their two little girls.

“I think (the coronavirus) is a political scam,” Weyant said.

“If it’s safe for the kids to go to school, it’s safe” to trick-or-treat, Cornell said.

“Don’t let anything hold you back,” Orberg said.

Mirror Staff Writer

William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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