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Bizarre Florida Halloween Health Guidelines Don’t Mention Wearing Masks

At first, the trick-or-treating guidelines from the Florida Department of Health might sort of just seem like a bad “trick”... but, unfortunately, the department really did publish these bogus safety guidelines.

The Florida Department of Health is “providing information for residents to make the best decisions about their health and safety while enjoying Halloween.” The guidance on its website gives tips on how to do Halloween activities more safely, especially trick-or-treating, and although it suggests that people “remove tripping hazards to keep your home safe for trick-or-treaters,” there’s one piece of crucial health advice that’s notably left out of the guidelines entirely: the Florida Department of Health doesn’t mention anywhere on its site that families should be wearing face masks to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing face masks, which can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by upwards of 80%, and the CDC considers Halloween activities like trick-or-treating to be high-risk, particularly depending on local infection transmission rates. Florida’s omission of mask-wearing in the guidelines is thusly glaring.

Florida has reported 4,000 state-wide new cases on the day this article was published. Meanwhile, the health guidelines put forth on the website could read as written at any old time, pandemic or not, which is jarring for families concerned about the safety risks of trick-or-treating. Kids could gather in crowds and visit dozens of strangers’ homes during a pandemic.

The website doesn’t even outright mention the pandemic by name or mention social distancing, and its guidelines for trick-or-treaters include stuff about wearing “costumes that are bright and reflective,” making “sure that shoes fit well,” and avoiding “any sharp or long swords, canes, or sticks as a costume accessory.” It does, however, suggest alternative Halloween activities like pumpkin carving or apple picking, with hand sanitizer at the ready.

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While it is, in general, a good practice for kids to wear reflective clothing at night, to wear shoes that won’t make them trip, or to avoid poking themselves with a costume sword, COVID-19 is a far, far greater safety risk to kids and their families. Even if young children are less likely to suffer the worst effects of COVID-19 if they were to contract it, they can still pass it on to more vulnerable family members, friends, and others. The bottom line is that if your family is planning on trick-or-treating, in Florida or anywhere, really, wearing a face mask is a vital safety step this Halloween. Ultimately, the Florida Department of Health missed out on an opportunity to educate the public about mask-wearing.