A not-so-scary guide to Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Oct 15, 2020

It’s officially spooky season! You know what that means — colder weather, scary movies, pumpkin carving, candy and everything in between.

Though traditional holiday celebrations may look slightly different this year, we’ve got a few tips and tricks up our sleeve to keep you, your family and your neighbors safe while still squeezing in those beloved thrills and chills.

Holidays are a cause for celebration but remember, your family’s health and safety always comes first.

It’s entirely possible to stay safe and still have fun celebrating Halloween. The trick is to understand the risks, take simple precautions and follow all guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The following tips can also help you plan the best way for your family to partake in the festivities. 

Prepare your children 

Though this year’s Halloween will not be quite what your children are used to, talk to them about the importance of staying safe while celebrating. As every child responds differently to change, help them understand and create a safe space for open conversation. And remember to be patient as they learn to cope.

Know the risks

As fun as it is to go trick-or-treating and attend costume parties, the safest way to celebrate Halloween this year is at home with your family or household. To protect yourself from COVID-19 and help prevent the spread in your community, strongly consider celebrating at home.

This is especially important if anyone in your household or close circle is considered at high risk of facing serious complications should they get COVID-19. Fortunately, there are a variety of activities and ways to celebrate at home and virtually to keep the Halloween spirit alive.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you are invited to Halloween parties, outings or trick-or-treating events — your friends and family will understand that your health is what is truly important.

Get creative with low-risk festivities 

According to the CDC’s Halloween guidelines, engaging in fun, yet safe, alternative activities that pose a lower risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus is highly encouraged and recommended. The safest options include activities that take place at home or outdoors with your own household.

Year after year, the best part about Halloween (aside from the unlimited supply of candy, of course) is getting to put on a crazy, creative costume for one night. If you’re looking for a fun and safe way to show off your ensemble, host a virtual Halloween costume contest with all your friends and family. May the best costume win.

If dressing up isn’t your style, try another CDC-recommended lower risk activity like: 

  • Carving and decorating pumpkins with those in your household and displaying them outside
  • Decorating your home — think spider webs, skeletons, pumpkins and you guessed it, candy
  • Planning a scavenger hunt or trick-or-treat search adventure for your kids inside of your household. This is a great alternative to going door to door around your neighborhood.
  • Hosting a Halloween movie night with members of your household. This can be a great time to explore all of the fun recipes and DIY crafts you’ve saved on Pinterest.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to keep the spooky spirit in the air while having fun and staying safe.

Avoid moderate and high-risk activities

Although your safest option for celebrating this Halloween season is to stay home, the CDC has also shared guidelines should you choose to celebrate outside of the house.

If you do decide to go trick-or-treating or attend a Halloween party, do so in the safest way possible for your own safety and that of those around you.

At this point, we’re no strangers to masks, hand hygiene and social distancing. All of these guidelines apply to any type of Halloween festivities you might participate in. Below are a few additional Halloween-specific recommendations to keep in mind.

  • Costume masks: If you’re choosing to dress up or have a little one in a costume, keep in mind that costume masks are not a substitute for cloth face masks unless it contains two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the nose and mouth, without gaps around the face. 
  • Outdoor activities: In general, outdoor activities are considered lower risk than those indoor (unless they only involve members of your household). So, opt for outdoors when possible and if you are celebrating around the neighborhood, be sure to keep 6 feet apart from any other families or groups you encounter — for both your safety and theirs. 
  • Candy: If you choose to give out candy or trick-or-treat in any way, be aware that all candy should be individually wrapped. Toss out any candy you or your child receives that is not. Be sure to wipe down the outside of each piece with a disinfecting wipe before unwrapping, then, enjoy! 
  • Screaming: If screaming is likely to occur while playing a movie, attending a costume party or trick-or-treating, a greater distance is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. 
  • If you feel sick: Use common sense when planning activities. If you or a little one feels sick or may have been exposed to someone with the virus, stay home to protect your family and neighbors and do not participate in any in-person festivities. Make sure you know what to do if someone in your household starts showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Lastly, wash your hands before, during and after any activities.

Moderate-risk festivities 

The CDC categorizes the following activities as moderate-risk: 

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating — place individually wrapped candy or goodie bags at the edge of a yard or driveway for families to grab-and-go while practicing social distancing. If you are preparing the bags, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after.
  • Hosting a small, outdoor costume parade while practicing social distancing.
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are worn and social distancing is enforced.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or apple orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching or picking pumpkins and apples, wearing masks is enforced and social distancing is maintained
  • Hosting an outdoor Halloween movie night with family, friends or neighbors with people spaced out by at least 6 feet 

Related: How to make wearing a face mask fun for kids and teens

High-risk festivities 

In accordance with the CDC, it’s best to avoid these high-risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus. Although the traditional holiday festivities are far from normal this year, it is important to remain mindful and respectful of ourselves and the health of others. 

These high-risk Halloween activities include: 

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where candy and treats are handed to children going door to door. If you choose to hand out candy, be sure to wear a mask and use tongs to drop the candy into each child’s bag. If you choose to go door to door, don’t linger too long, wear a mask and make sure your children wait to eat the candy until it has been wiped down. 
  • Participating in a trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in a parking lot
  • Attending indoor costume parties that will be crowded. Parties involving more than one household are not recommended. If you do choose to host or attend a Halloween party, keep these tips in mind:
    1. Avoid no-mask parties and keep your masks on as much as possible
    2. If eating or drinking, step away from other people and be sure to replace your mask quickly
    3. Avoid buffet-style food
    4. Spend time outdoors as much as possible
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people will be crowded together and screaming 
  • Going on hayrides with people who are not in your household 
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can increase risky behaviors

Think twice before you agree to or plan any fall holiday activities. Safety should always be your number one priority — and holidays are no exception. Y’all Stay Safe!

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