Halloween 2020: Picking your mask during a pandemic

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 7:28 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - We’ve been wearing masks on Halloween as long as anyone can remember. Although in 2020, what kind of mask one picks carries more weight than bringing a costume together.

In terms of slowing the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen with the Department of Health and Social Services said the same rules apply for a Halloween mask as they do for the masks we’ve spent months wearing and collecting.

"You know the idea with a mask, is you’re trying to keep most of those respiratory droplets that we’ve been talking about from getting to other people,” she said.

Advice we’ve heard many times before but that means you’re looking for a mask that covers the mouth and nose completely, has multiple cloth layers or is a surgical mask.

However, many do not make costume masks with pandemics in mind. So, many are designed with holes in the mouth and nose to make them more breathable, and of course, many masks don’t cover the mouth area at all.

At Spirit Halloween in the Tikahtnu Commons, almost no masks perfectly fitting that description could be found by Alaska’s News Source reporters.

Based on what Store Manager Whitney Turner has been seeing this season, people aren’t really focused on buying masks with COVID-19 protection in mind either.

Spirit Halloween store manager, Whitney Turner showing off a best-selling animotion mask.
Spirit Halloween store manager, Whitney Turner showing off a best-selling animotion mask.(Taylor Clark)

She pulled out one of the best-sellers: a gruesome looking Ani-Motion mask with a wide open mouth and yellowed fangs. Turner said the point of these are that they open and close along with the wearers mouth when they talk.

She said it normally sells really well, but is normally eclipsed by the classic Michael Myers mask — which cover the whole head, but there is still a tiny spot in the mouth for breathing.

A classic Michael Myers Halloween mask. Spirit Halloween employees say these are always a...
A classic Michael Myers Halloween mask. Spirit Halloween employees say these are always a top-seller.(Taylor Clark)

Ohlsen said most costume masks not being up to COVID-19-par isn’t reason to fear because you can wear whatever mask you want and still be safe about it if you wear a qualified mask on under it.

“There’s really never been a better year to go as an old-school plague doctor with one of those big beaks,” she said. “Plenty of room for a mask under there.”

Having tended to the needs of so many Halloween plans, Turner is pretty skeptical about folks following through on that one. After all, some Halloween masks can get pretty toasty by themselves.

For example, she doesn’t think all those people she’s sold a ton of the Michael Myers masks to will be wearing a pandemic mask on underneath. However, those Ani-Motion ones may be a better candidate. With such a large hole in the mouth for the proper motion, she thinks the right pandemic mask may even make it look better.

"I think like a black cloth mask would be just fine under it. You know, nobody is going to see it, the mask is still going to move, you know your chin will sit on it and it’s still going to work just fine,” she said.

Even though there’s a stigma going around that Halloween is canceled, Turner said they’re seeing sales this year that are about the same as they were last year.

Clearly, there are thousands of choices for Halloween masks; where it gets worn is also a choice.

“There’s no amount of masking that can make being in a small space with a lot of other people safe,” Ohlsen said.

So even with the best costume in the world, if it’s a big indoor party, it’s not recommended by health officials to be in attendance.

Not to say no costumes or good times this year. It’s suggested for folks to sport their spooky get-ups for COVID-19-friendly activities. Ohslen’s advice and other guidelines are to do things like virtual costume contests, fall outings like pumpkin patches, or trick-or-treating where mitigation techniques are being used.

We’ll give you a look at what to expect on some of the best candy-stops in Anchorage and Eagle River, as Alaska’s News Source Halloween coverage continues tomorrow.

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