Celebrating Halloween amid the COVID-19 pandemic


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We blinked and it is officially fall. This time of year brings annual gatherings full of family, friends and food. Undoubtedly, the holidays will look and feel different this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. That does not mean skipping the celebrations all together, but it does mean we may have to pivot.

Beginning with Halloween, how you celebrate should depend on a variety of factors, particularly related to local transmission and hospitalization rates, and how cold and flu season is shaping up in your area. Based on where you live, different communities will have to make plans that reflect their situations.

The most important steps you can take to protect your family when you celebrate at any point this holiday season are:

  • Practice safe social distancing (to be in “close contact” with COVID-19 means you were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes)
  • Wear masks or face coverings
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly

It is also incredibly important for everyone to get a flu shot as soon as possible. The flu shot is safe and recommended for anyone over 6 months of age yearly, including pregnant women.

When talking about Halloween, kids (and parents) should absolutely dress up. Not only is it a fun tradition, but the plus side of many costumes is they come with masks. Wearing a cloth mask as part of your costume is recommended.

To help families figure out safe ways to have Halloween, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month released a list of helpful tips, including other considerations to weigh such as where an event is taking place, how long it is scheduled to last and the number of people attending.

Traditional trick-or-treating with kids going from neighbor to neighbor, ringing the doorbell and getting candy is risky and not recommended (at least not this year). This also goes for crowded indoor costume parties and haunted houses. Consider other options for celebrating that minimize possible exposure to COVID-19 and community spread.

Some possible trick-or-treating solutions include:

  • Set out single-serve, individually-wrapped treats on tables outside for neighbors to pick up one at a time. This way trick-or-treaters are not all putting their hands in the same bowl, while those giving out treats can pull up a chair and participate at a safe distance.
  • Create a candy scavenger hunt for your kids in your home or yard without guests.
  • Take your kids to trick-or-treat at the houses of people you are regularly in contact with (such as grandparents or friends pod).

Wipe down or sanitize external packaging – or the bigger bag containing the smaller, individually-wrapped pieces – of candy bags you bring home from the store. It is not necessary to wipe down the wrappers of candies inside the bigger bags as those have likely been untouched for quite some time.

Other activities your family may want to try:

  • Host a virtual costume party on Zoom. Kids can show off their costumes and participate in pre-planned activities such as decorating Halloween cookies or carving pumpkins.
  • Skip the trick-or-treating and still enjoy the fresh air with a socially distant costume block party, where each family celebrates from their respective front yards, porches or driveways.
  • Keep it low key: have a scary movie night with popcorn, drinks and plenty of candy.