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SAN DIEGO — Most years, they come as ghosts and vampires and Marvel characters to mine Southern California neighborhoods for sweet, sugary candy. As we now know, 2020 was not like most years.

This weekend, families are preparing to venture out once again in costume in celebration of Halloween.

But even as COVID-19 continues to spread in San Diego County — roughly at the same rate as this time last year — public health experts say the community is in a much better position than before.

“I do think we need to be a little bit careful,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, “but fortunately, the most traditional way to celebrate Halloween is outdoors going from door-to-door trick-or-treating and I think that activity is safe.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Halloween is an important time of year for children, so “go out there” and “enjoy it,” the Associated Press reported. He also urged people to consider getting the widely available COVID-19 vaccine for what he called an “extra degree of protection.”

While cases in San Diego County appear similar to this time last year, testing capabilities are far better and more than 90% of eligible San Diegans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sawyer says cases generally are in a downward trend compared to one or two months ago.

“We have a large percent of our population who’s had at least one dose vaccine,” he said. “I am hopeful we aren’t going to see the same spikes in disease that we’ve seen in the last six months.”

For this year, Sawyer said it is most ideal for families to have children trick-or-treat in smaller groups and for people generally to shy away from indoor parties through the holiday season.

“Delta is certainly a more contagious version of the virus and that’s why we’re recommending continuing precautions even among immunized people,” he said.

Health professionals continue to encourage mask-wearing whenever possible — and they’re not referring to the iconic Michael Myers mask from the “Halloween” franchise. Additionally, handwashing should wash away any concerns about the virus spread along with any candy being collected this Halloween.

A list of suggestions to stay safe from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available here.

“We’ve come to learn that what we thought could be a route of transmission that is touching a surface that somebody else had contact with before you is not a major part of this issue,” Sawyer said.

After the holiday, vaccinations soon could be on the way for children as young as 5.

The CDC plans to meet Nov. 2-3 to discuss potential vaccination guidelines for children aged between 5 and 11 years old.