Never mind ghosts and goblins — there’s a more insidious character lurking the streets.
Yes, the novel coronavirus pandemic is on everyone’s mind, including during Halloween. And when infectious disease experts at the CDC say that a trick-or-treating poses a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because it may involve spending prolonged time in close contact with friends or neighbors, what should you do?
Not only that, but what should you do at your home? Should you flick on the lights and share candy with trick-or-treaters?
Luckily, you can find creative ways to rethink any traditional Halloween events with the CDC’s suggestions, as highlighted below.
How to Implement Safety Guidelines at Halloween Parties
Is it a good idea to go to Halloween parties? It’s possible as long as adults and children both take precautions and follow CDC guidelines.
However, new safety guidelines may encourage you to switch from traditional trick-or-treating during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The CDC recognizes the following as higher-risk activities. It’s a good idea to look at these guidelines and the list of question we’ve compiled to make the best decision for your family:
- If your child may go to a Halloween party, consider the gathering location. The gathering location makes a difference. In general, indoor gatherings tend to pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Consider whether a particular indoor gathering will have poor ventilation. (Obviously, this may be challenging to fully know prior to a gathering.) However, it’s important to know that a gathering without open windows or doors poses more risk than gatherings that provide good ventilation.
- Examine the length of the gathering. Lengthier gatherings contain more risk than shorter gatherings. Know that you’re increasing the risk when your teen is invited to an all-night bash versus your second grader’s 15-minute treat exchange.
- Consider the number of individuals invited. Are your kids invited to a 100-person Halloween party or a tiny five-person gathering? Note that the CDC does not recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings.
- Determine where people are visiting from. Will people travel from far away to join the gathering? Let’s say neighborhood friends plan to invite family from another state to their gathering. Know that that area could have higher levels of COVID-19 cases, which could result in an increased risk of spread among attendees.
- Does the gathering require masks and will it adhere to social distancing regulations? If the gathering doesn’t require attendees to stay at least six feet apart from other attendees and won’t implement mask wearing, hand washing and more, the risk potential naturally goes up.
- What do activities entail? Bobbing for apples in the same large tub? Raucous games at an all-outdoor event? Consider the preventive measures within those activities, such as mask requirements, social distancing and more.
Also consider the number of cases and the rate of COVID-19 cases in your community. You can find information on the number of cases on your area’s health department website.
Keep in mind that while fewer children contract COVID-19 compared to adults, kids can still get the disease. It’s possible that they may exhibit no symptoms (also called asymptomatic) and can still spread the virus to others, according to the CDC.
Should Kids Trick-or-Treat?
Should your child trick-or-treat Grandma June’s house even if she’s 68 with underlying health conditions and in the CDC’s high-risk category? It might be best to take a more cautious approach. (You may want to encourage Grandma June to set up a station with individually bagged treats for your kids to take.)
What about the rest of the neighborhood?
Let’s go over some precautions.
Precautions to Take if Your Kids Do Trick-or-Treat
First, get up-to-date information about local COVID-19 activities from public health officials so you’re aware of the rate of transmission in your area.
Encourage your child to wash her hands after trick or treating. Your child will likely not have access to soap and water during trick-or-treating, of course. Instead, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Show your child how to use it properly — encourage her to cover every part of her hands and rub them together until they’re dry. Supervise your child when he or she uses hand sanitizer.
Wear a Mask
Make sure your child wears a mask while trick-or-treating. In fact, the CDC recommends making a mask a part of your child’s costume. Here are a few more guidelines, directly from the CDC:
- Costume masks are not substitutes for cloth masks.
- It’s not a good idea to wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it could affect your child’s breathing.
- Children under age two should not wear a mask, nor should anyone who has trouble breathing.
Avoid Contact with People at Trick-or-Treat Locations
Stay at least 6 feet away from other people your child doesn’t live with and anyone who is visibly sneezing or coughing.
Only Let Your Child Take Individually Bagged Treats
Encourage your neighbors to set up treat stations near their front porch with treats individually bagged and ready to go. It’ll avoid kids digging through treat containers where COVID-19 could spread and also infect homeowners inviting trick-or-treaters to their door.
You may be able to come up with an alternative option for Halloween if you’re not comfortable with the idea of your kids going trick-or-treating. Here are a few ideas.
Alternative 1: Organize a Halloween Drive-Through Parade.
Have you seen how drive-through birthday parties exploded in popularity? Translate that to Halloween! Dress kids in their Halloween costumes at a pre-arranged time (it takes some organization among neighbors!).
Stand your kids in your front yard. Adults and older kids will have lots of fun driving through the neighborhood. Kind of like a parade, encourage these invitees to throw individually wrapped candy and treats (don’t forget the plastic gloves for safety!) out of their windows as they drive by.
Alternative 2: Stay in with a Virtual Halloween Party.
Between virtual school, virtual parent-teacher conferences and daily Zoom meetings for your job, you (and your kids) might cringe at the idea of a Zoom Halloween party.
However, if you’re looking for an alternative way to celebrate, this is the year you can celebrate with family and friends from a distance with a virtual Halloween party! Friends and family from other states can join!
Get decked out in costumes, bring out the Halloween crafts, carve pumpkins, play Halloween games and more. What other activities could your kiddos invent? Let them join in on the planning process so they get excited about the idea of (yet another) virtual event.
Alternative 3: Set up a Spooky Movie in the Backyard!
Dig out a white sheet and hang it from tree to tree in the backyard. Borrow or buy a projector and rewatch your family’s favorite Halloween movie (or introduce your kids to a new one!). Add bean bag chairs or other cozy seating — make yourselves as comfortable as you can in your backyard.
What could be better on a cool October night? If you think your kids are up for it, team up with your spouse to add additional spooky sound effects during the movie, like snapping twigs and ghostly sounds.
Alternative 4: Remake May Day!
Booing your local friends and neighbors is an awesome way to spread Halloween cheer this month. Simply create a bag of Halloween goodies. Think pumpkins, Halloween decorations, packaged candy, and spooky treats. Then leave it on the doorstep of a friend with an anonymous note with instructions on how they can pass that boo-tiful fun along to others to keep the Halloween excitement flowing throughout your area.
You could also shake it up a little bit by creating an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt with the neighbor kids. Make sure everyone is adequately spaced during the hunt.
Alternative 5: Visit a Pumpkin Patch or Orchard.
You might have a little more control over your child’s movements at a pumpkin patch or orchard compared to the wild excitement of running from house to house. Don’t forget to encourage your child to wash his hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. Watch all surfaces, especially if your child picks up pumpkins, squashes and other frequently handled objects.
Pumpkin patches or orchards may offer outdoor one-way walk-through haunted forests or corn mazes.
Keep Your Kids (and Yourself!) Safe on Halloween
As with anything, it’s ultimately your decision whether your children participate in Halloween like last year.
Remember, the CDC says it’s a good idea to determine the risks of any gathering (including Halloween gatherings) based on attendees’ abilities to reduce or limit contact between attendees and the risk of spread. Consider the state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations in the process so you can have fun and remain safe, no matter what route you take for Halloween fun.