Halloween safety will look a lot different this year. The lingering pandemic has many parents wondering whether regular trick-or-treating should be canceled, which would obviously break a ton of kids’ candy-hunting hearts. Luckily, there’s no need to totally lose hope for the spooky holiday — we just need to get a little more creative.
A new set of guidelines from the CDC ranks several traditional Halloween activities as low, moderate, or high risk. Although typical trick-or-treating is in the latter category, dressing up and gathering sweets isn’t completely off the table.
Rather than going door-to-door, they suggest planning a Halloween scavenger hunt where kiddos can search for treats around your own house and yard, like a Halloween twist on at-home Easter egg hunts. Or if you want to take this as an opportunity to avoid sugar rushes (and cavities), you can try the CDC’s idea for a scavenger hunt where “children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring decorations from a distance.”
Other low risk recommendations include harmless activities like carving and decorating pumpkins. Gathering with friends to show off your artwork is fine, too, as long as you keep a safe distance of six feet. Decorating the house is another obviously low risk. They also list virtual Halloween costume contests and movie nights as some of the safest ways to celebrate.
In the moderate category, the CDC recommends adjusting trick-or-treating to a one-way exchange of prepared goodie bags that can be picked up from a distance (like the end of your driveway or the edge of your yard). For group gatherings, they suggest costume parades with people keeping six feet apart, or outdoor costume parties with people wearing protective masks and, again, keeping their distance.
The organization adds an important clarification, “A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.” They also warn against wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask “because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.”
Walking through “haunted” forests — again, wearing masks and keeping six feet distances — is another moderate risk activity. However, they add that “if screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised.” Apparently our shrieks can potentially spread droplets through the air with more force. Pumpkin patches, orchards, and outdoor movie nights with similar mask, distancing, plus hand sanitizing measures are also found in this section.
Again, traditional trick-or-treating tops the list of high risk activities this year. Trunk-or-treating (lining up cars to hand out candy from the trunk), crowded indoor costume parties, and indoor haunted houses are included here as well. They even recommend avoiding hayrides and tractor rides because you might have to sit near someone who’s not in your family.
The organization also makes a point to warn against drinking alcohol or partaking in other things that can hinder your judgement and “increase risky behaviors.” (This a good one to keep in mind for non-pandemic Halloween partying, too.)
If you still decide to participate in some of the higher risk activities, the CDC recommends spending as much time at home as possible for the following 14 days — and especially avoid places where anyone more vulnerable to COVID-19 symptoms might be. They also suggest getting tested for the virus after any potential exposure.
That said, it’s totally possible to have an amazing Halloween celebration while keeping to the low or moderate risk activities! Remember, the holiday is about fun fake frights, not all-too-real health scares.