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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Celebrating Halloween and Día de los Muertos will be difficult and more isolated this year, but can still be done while minimizing harm to others.

Why it matters: Traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, indoor parties, haunted houses, crowded cemeteries and communal candy bowls are all considered high-risk activities by the CDC.

The big picture: Health officials are worried the convergence of colder weather and more holiday social gatherings will cause more coronavirus transmissions. Check local health department guidelines.

  • "The biggest risk is social gatherings with older teens and young adults for Halloween festivities ... I really would caution people against larger gatherings," said Emmanuel Walter Jr., chief medical officer at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

Trick-or-treating and "trunk-or-treating," where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots, should be done in small groups and outside, according to state health departments and epidemiologists.

  • Avoid children grabbing candy from communal bowls or sanitize their hands afterward. Also consider handing out treat bags instead.
  • A Halloween mask will not protect you from the virus.
  • Some health departments are recommending "candy chutes" and communities have gotten creative in theirs.

Día de los Muertos participants should avoid large, indoor celebrations with singing or chanting, said Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, associate professor of family medicine and community health at Duke Family Medical Center.

  • “If you’re going to go to the cemetery, do it, but keep that distance," she said.
  • She also advises parents to have children make decorate masks and make an altar in their homes with pillows and blankets for the deceased.
  • Families can gather virtually and trade recipes.

The bottom line: The public can still participate in their traditions this year, just in limited ways.

Go deeper

Nov 29, 2020 - Health

Fauci warns Thanksgiving travel will likely make COVID-19 surge worse

NIAID director Anthony Fauci warned on Sunday that the U.S. could see in the coming weeks "a surge superimposed upon that surge that we're already in," as COVID-19 cases are expected to rise after many Americans traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Why it matters: Cases and hospitalizations are already skyrocketing nationwide. Governors and health departments in some states have warned that the increase in cases could overwhelm hospital systems.

Nov 29, 2020 - Sports

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground, and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Nov 29, 2020 - Health

New York City to reopen public schools with weekly testing

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York on Nov. 28. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Some New York City schools will be allowed to reopen for in-person learning as early as Dec. 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday.

The state of play: De Blasio said schools will no longer be forced to shutter when the city hits a 3% COVID-19 test positivity rate, but he did not specify what the new threshold will be. The school district will mandate weekly tests for 20% of children in each school, and students will not be tested before they return.