MADISON, NJ - On the one night each year when shambling zombies and blood-thirsty vampires are everywhere, something much scarier will be lurking.
COVID-19 will be a specter hanging over this year's Halloween festivities.
Fear not, trick or treaters.
Experts say there are still ways to enjoy the holiday after Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week that traditional holiday revelry will be permitted this year provided children and parents take some precautions.
The Governor's Office is suggesting that those giving out candy arrange individually packaged candy so that trick or treaters can grab and go without accessing a shared bowl to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19.
His office has also suggested limiting trick-or-treating groups to household members, exercising social distancing when that is not possible and adhering to existing crowd limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Don Schaffner, a Distinguished Professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said trick or treaters should still wear masks.
"I've only half-jokingly suggested that this year might be a good idea to come dressed as a doctor or a nurse, or maybe a bank robber," he said. "If parents and children can wear masks in addition to Halloween masks this will further reduce the risk."
Schaffner also suggested washing up before eating the candy or wait a day to allay any concerns.
"We know that there are no documented cases of transmission from food or food packaging materials. The evidence of transmission from surfaces is very limited. The best way to manage risk in this case is to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer on your hands prior to eating your candy.
Trick or Treating is "ON" in Madison however the parade, trunk or treating and the magic show has been canceled.
"Wear a face mask under your scary mask and keep your mask on so you won't touch your face after getting candy", Madison Mayor Bob Conley said.
He also offered the following advice:
- Stay in your own neighborhood
- Go out with your family or close group of friends
- Wash your hands when you get home
- Only eat the candy that is factory sealed
"If you follow these guidelines you will not only help yourself, but help protect others", said the mayor. "Have a great Halloween. Be safe and be well".