NYT Op-Ed Calls CDC Ruling On Halloween “A Bridge Too Far”

New York — In an opinion in The New York Times today, contributor Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement that traditional trick-or-treating with face-to-face candy distribution is a high-risk activity, “a bridge too far.” The agency went on to say modified trick-or-treating with grab-and-go goody bags was labeled a moderate risk.

In response, Carroll wrote: “If I had to design an activity for children that might be safe during a pandemic, I’m not sure that I could do a better job than trick-or-treating. It’s outside. It can be socially distanced. The food is individually wrapped (before anyone partakes, parents can wipe the candies down while kids wash their hands). It’s the one night a year when kids will not argue at all about wearing masks.”

He suggested: “Homeowners could easily place the candy bowl six feet from the door and admire kids’ costumes from afar. Candies could be laid out on platters and replenished, so kids don’t have to root around in a big bowl.” He also pointed out that with Halloween on a Saturday this year, that neighborhoods could commit to starting earlier so that kids aren’t all out at once. “We could even stagger the hours by age,” he said.

The mistakes the CDC is making on Halloween, Carroll pointed out, “mirror the mistakes we make all the time with respect to the pandemic. We treat all activities as if they are either ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe.'”

Some Halloween activities should clearly be avoided, admitted Carroll. “Indoor get-togethers would be just as unsafe on Halloween as on any other night. Bobbing for apples, though quaint, is definitely out. So are haunted houses that ask kids to touch things or bump into each other repeatedly.”

He said it’s possible to do all of these things more safely and less safely. “Our goal should be to look at each activity and ask, ‘How can we do this as safely as possible?'”