Will COVID-19 allow us to safely trick or treat this Halloween?

is it safe to trick or treat halloween coronavirus
Photo via Thad Zajdowicz/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • COVID-19 will still be a threat on Oct. 31
  • Parents want to know if their kids can safely celebrate Halloween
  • The CDC has released its list of activities and the risk of each

Halloween is 10 days away, and America’s infection numbers continue to rise. Kids are eager to don costumes and hit the streets for Oct. 31 festivities, but parents are left wondering: Is it safe to trick or treat this year?

“We still, unfortunately, are far from the end of this pandemic, and I think that the CDC reminders, really more than anything, should have us all pause to think about what our plans are, whether it’s for Halloween or for Thanksgiving,” Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious diseases doctor, told the New York Times.

State health officials in California don’t think you should do it this year. “We don’t want to turn certainly what is a celebration and a time of joy into something that is difficult or contentious, but we also recognize the need to provide a clear understanding of the risks and why we recommend strongly that we do Halloween differently than we have in the past,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said, via the Los Angeles Times.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agrees: He said he’s not taking his children to trick or treat this year.

There is quite a bit to consider when it comes to deciding how to celebrate Halloween in 2020. Is trick or treating your goal for the season, or were you hoping to throw a costume party? Even if your only desire was to pass out candy to kids, there are risks involved. But there are some ways to enjoy the holiday more safely, for parents and kids alike. 

Depending on your state’s infection numbers, trick or treating may be a relatively safe activity. It takes place outdoors, where the virus is less likely to spread rapidly, and many areas will experience cold weather by the end of October. Experts are advising parents to incorporate masks into their children’s costumes, despite the outdoor environment. They also warn that large groups should be avoided, on the streets as well as in homes. Consistent hand sanitizer use is recommended to keep trick or treaters safe, as is a thorough washing of any treats obtained. 

In September, the CDC made its recommendations for how to be safe on Halloween.

  • Lower-risk activities include carving and decorating pumpkins with family members or, at a safe distance, with neighbors and friends. Also on that list: Halloween scavenger hunts or participating in a virtual Halloween costume contest. 
  • Moderate-risk activities include participating in “one-way trick-or-treating” where kids can pick up individually wrapped goodie bags, attending a costume party outside complete with social distancing and mask-wearing, or visiting an open-air, one-way-only haunted forest with masks and social distancing. 
  • Higher-risk activities including traditional trick-or-treating where children go door-to-door and take candy directly from households, attending an indoors party, walking through an indoor haunted house “where people may be crowded together and screaming,” or going on a hayride with people who are not in the same household. 

If you are hoping to throw a party, aim for an outdoor shindig. Indoor parties are inherently dangerous right now, as the virus can spread far more easily in less ventilated areas. As usual, thorough cleaning, hand washing, and mask-wearing should be a staple of any event. Haunted houses face a difficult decision, as their claustrophobic environments—perfect for scares, but also a breeding ground for coronavirus transmission—may be tempting fate. 

The same is true for pumpkin patches, Halloween-themed bar events, and other larger gatherings. Those haunted houses that do open will be forced to adjust their typical formula with plexiglass shields, careful masks, and a reduction in fake blood and contact with customers. 

Those looking to stay in and pass out candy have an easier task, but it will still look different from a typical year. Advice for homeowners looking to enjoy trick or treaters includes providing hand sanitizer and avoiding use of a doorbell. Sit outside instead, assuming weather permits, and choose a designated candy holder. This person can pass out treats to visiting children and minimize the number of hands each candy touches. 

Is it safe:

Sources: New York Times, Kansas City Star, Detroit News, CTV News, CDC

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