Halloween is a very important holiday in the United States, when kids and adults both get to have fun, scare each other, and eat a lot of candy. But, the COVID-19 pandemic will definitely make this year’s Halloween a bit different, with the coronavirus cases merging with the flu season.
Even though it will be difficult to maintain social distancing rules, there are ways to minimize exposure to both viruses during trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities. One of these measures is wearing a face mask, be it a cloth mask, surgical mask, or an N95 mask. Here’s why you should wear an N95 respirator on Halloween.
N95 masks: why are they so effective?
N95 respirators are considered to be the best disposable face mask for virus protection we have available at the moment. Unlike surgical or medical masks and reusable cloth masks, N95 respirators offer a tight fit to the face and a higher filtration rate, giving them more antiviral properties than other face mask options on the market.
The term ‘N95’ comes from the NIOSH classification for respirators, which is the standard used in the USA to regulate them. NIOSH stands for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and they’re in charge of testing and making sure the respirator meets the criteria for each respirator class. The classification is based on two characteristics: resistance to oil and filtration efficacy.
According to this classification, the first characteristic is indicated with a letter, and in the case of N95 respirators, the ‘N’ represents that they’re not resistant to oil. The ‘95’ indicates their percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy. This means N95 respirators are effective for protecting against airborne particles that don’t contain oil, like dust, smoke, and certain viruses.
This is why N95 masks are such a necessary item for virus protection right now. Healthcare centers are struggling to obtain this product, and are using instead other protective items like KN95 masks, surgical masks, and face shields.
The Coronavirus, how it spreads, and why it’s important to prevent it
The new coronavirus species, named the SARS-CoV-2, is part of the broader genus of coronaviruses, which have been known to infect the human respiratory tract and cause very mild flu-like illnesses. However, this new species has appeared to be more deadly and concerning, especially for certain populations.
Most cases are mild or asymptomatic, with common symptoms being dry cough, sore throat, and muscle pain, there’s a group of people that are more at risk of developing a serious form of the disease. This group of people includes older people, immunocompromised patients, and those with comorbidities like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, any pre-existing lung conditions, among others.
In these people, complications like thrombosis, severe lung injury, and multi-organ failure are much more common to happen and can result in long-term complications or be lethal. Although the size of the percentage of severe cases is relatively smaller, when there are too many people infected at the same time, like the situation we’re at right now, this percentage is more concerning, and healthcare centers can become overwhelmed and collapse.
This is why, even though kids and younger people don’t usually develop a serious form of the disease, they are still carriers and can spread it to the most vulnerable people in their communities, and should still be taking measures to prevent infection.
Safety during Halloween
It’s safe to say that Halloween this year will look very different with the COVID-19 pandemic and the influenza virus, also known as the flu, season merging during the fall. But, although some traditional activities done on Halloween can be risky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some recommendations to make them as safe as possible.
For example, during trick-or-treating, the CDC has some guidelines to make it safer, including preventing direct contact with other trick-or-treaters, giving out the candy outdoors, and of course, wearing a mask at all times and washing the hands as much as possible. They even recommend setting up a station with individually bagged candy that kids can just take to avoid contact.
They make some general recommendations as well. Of course, the main measure to take is wearing a mask at all times. The cloth mask can be made part of the costume, but they’re very clear in saying that costume masks can’t substitute cloth masks and that they shouldn’t be worn over cloth masks, as it can make it difficult to breathe. Additionally, they emphasize that kids under 2 years old shouldn’t wear face masks. N95 masks, which are substantially better than reusable cloth masks, can be worn during Halloween, but they can’t be decorated and should be worn as they are.
They also instruct trick-or-treaters to always keep a 6-feet distance between them and any other people that don't live with them, both indoors and outdoors. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol should be brought so that you can use it after touching any object or other people, and parents should always supervise their kids. After getting home, a good soap wash for at least 20 seconds should be done, especially before eating any treats.
The CDC additionally recommends some other activities to do during the Halloween season and fall that could be less risky. For example, they list visiting an orchard, forest, or corn maze and attending a scavenger hunt, decorating and/or carving pumpkins, or holding other outdoor events like parties or movie nights that are Halloween themed.
You can find options to buy N95 respirators, including 3M N95 masks like the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, for sale online, with options to buy in bulk or wholesale as well. Remember that anyone who uses any type of face-covering is doing their part as a good member of their community, and we can all enjoy Halloween while still being responsible and safe.