What You Should Know About Coronavirus Face Masks for Halloween

The coronavirus pandemic doesn't need to interfere with your Halloween activities.
The coronavirus pandemic doesn't need to interfere with your Halloween activities.
ajr_images/iStock via Getty Images

This Halloween, wearing a mask won’t be such a novel experience. With the coronavirus pandemic motivating millions of people to adopt face coverings as a routine part of their daily lives, having a partially obscured face in public is no longer unusual. But before dressing up for some responsible trick-or-treating or a small family gathering, it’s important to remember how cloth masks and Halloween costume masks serve two very different purposes.

First, should kids even go trick-or-treating this year? According to Monica Gandhi, MD, associate chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital, the answer is an unequivocal yes. “Kids should definitely go trick-or-treating this year,” Gandhi tells Mental Floss. “We know how to protect kids and adults. It is by facial masking." (The CDC issued guidelines for celebrating Halloween safely.)

As you may have already guessed, the plastic or rubber Halloween masks intended to transform you from your regular self into Batman or Wonder Woman are not believed to offer protection against the spread of germs. “We do not know the ability of rubber or plastic to block viral particles,” Gandhi says.

It's probably not likely. "Halloween masks provide no protection," William Miller, MD, senior associate dean of research and an epidemiology professor at The Ohio State University, tells Mental Floss. "First, they often have a hole for the mouth and nose. Second, they don't fit tightly. No one should consider a Halloween mask as adequate protection."

That doesn't mean you necessarily need to leave the costume masks behind. “To be safe, I would recommend a simple two-ply cotton or surgical mask underneath the rubber or plastic costume mask to cover the nose and mouth when trick-or-treating,” Gandhi says. It's also possible to cover the outside of the mask with fabric, but there's no guarantee that a loose-fitting mask won't have openings elsewhere that could allow pathogens to enter. And unless you’re going as a socially-distancing Spider-Man, that could hurt the costume’s look.

There shouldn’t be any concern about an outer Halloween mask affecting the performance of the inner protective mask, Gandhi says. One exception might be if the costume mask is cumbersome and adjusting it shifts the position of the protective mask. For both adults and kids, it might be a good idea to test the dual mask fit for comfort and breathability before wearing it for extended periods. You also don’t want to make a habit of repeatedly touching your face to adjust it unless you’ve washed your hands first. In its new guidelines, CDC suggests swapping out the costume mask and protective mask under it for one Halloween-themed, breathable cloth mask.

Parents on the fence about taking their costumed kids door-to-door this year should check their local guidelines, which might place restrictions on the hours or places for collecting candy. Kids should travel with family and try to stick to houses that have set up outdoor candy stations. Leaving the collected candy untouched for a day or two, Miller says, will reduce the already low risk of viral transmission from the wrapper surface.

With a little caution, Halloween can still be fun. And if you’re undecided about wearing two masks, there’s a simple solution: Just go dressed as a health care worker.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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See What Each State Is Googling This Halloween Season

Different states have different interests when it comes to Halloween.
Different states have different interests when it comes to Halloween.
Photo by Daisy Anderson from Pexels

Halloween may look a little—or a lot—different this year owing to ongoing global health concerns brought on by COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped people from pursuing interests from costumes to movies related to the spooky season.

Using Google Trends data, the people at SatelliteInternet.com, which helps connect people in rural areas to reliable internet access, have compiled a map of the Halloween topics each state has been searching for this year. As you can see, pumpkins, candy, and horror films are still very much on the minds of people looking for some Halloween inspiration.

A map of common Halloween Google search terms according to state.SatelliteInternet.com

While searches for autumn dominated in 14 states, Vermont natives have been curious about Stephen King’s It, while Kansas and South Dakota were searching for Chucky from the Child’s Play franchise.

Oregon wants to keep it light, searching for the 1998 Disney Channel movie Halloweentown, while Delaware is interested in body painting. Maine seems to be preoccupied with keeping kids busy, which is why coloring books are at the top of their search list.

If you’re curious which costumes are trending nationally, Google recently released a list. Witches take the top spot, followed by dinosaurs, Harley Quinn, and rabbits.