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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

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

NYC set to restart indoor dining in February, weddings in March

Outdoor dining in New York City in January. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that if the current coronavirus positivity in New York City holds, indoor dining will reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 14, one of the busiest dining days of the year.

Why it matters: The forced closure of indoor dining in December caused major backlash, as New York's struggling restaurant industry had already been hit hard by pandemic restrictions. Restaurants will still be required to close at 1o p.m.