HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — COVID-19 cases are declining and health experts want to keep it that way; the CDC is warning parents to be careful before diving back into Halloween festivities head first.
The Texas Tribune reports that there have been over 170,000 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children since August 2. A big spike of cases happened in the first few weeks of school and have since started to taper off.
According to the DSHS database, COVID-19 cases in school-aged children are now down to 13,000 a week from a high of 42,000 at the start of September.
Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority, confirmed that the trend is the same here in Hidalgo County. “Across the board, single digits in children and usually less than 150 to 160 in adults,” he said.
Last holiday season the RGV saw spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that put a strain on hospitals, but that was before the vaccines were available. The recent spike in hospitalizations, despite vaccines being available, leads Melendez to believe this holiday season may be similar.
“I think people may be a little more relax this year than they were last year,” Melendez said. “This is certainly true from a Texas perspective. During the fall of 2020, businesses still had occupancy limits and mask requirements were still in effect on state property. Counties also had the ability to mandate masks and schools were held in a hybrid manner with some students learning virtually while others attended in-person.
All those safeguards went away during the spring and summer as vaccines became widely available and new cases and hospitalizations hit pandemic lows. Then the delta variant began spreading rapidly and caused another spike that is now starting to recede.
In order to stop Halloween from becoming a spreader event, the CDC is recommending people not hand out candy in-person to trick-or-treaters this year.
Doctors are instead suggesting people wishing to give candy to trick-or-treaters either leave out bowls of candy or “set up individual stations where you have pre-packaged goodies that the kids can actually pick up and take themselves,” Melendez said. “That way you avoid direct contact with the trick-or-treaters.”
The CDC said Halloween masks are not a substitute for normal surgical or cloth masks. Those masks should still be worn while trick-or-treating this year.
Melendez said that cloth or surgical masks should not be worn under any Halloween mask “because it can cause more of an obstruction to the airway.” Instead, trick-or-treaters should put the mask over their Halloween mask, or not wear a Halloween mask at all.
Melendez also said that people setting out candy should carefully wipe down the items and parents should do the same back at home before the kids actually open the candy or treats.