Halloween may look different this year, but for many of us, we’ve become used to things being unusual, to say the least. COVID is continuing to affect not only the U.S., but countries around the world, and it’s leaving many families to wonder how to have a fun and safe Halloween.
If you have kids, Halloween safety is probably always a concern regardless of whether or not there’s a pandemic.
There are certain Halloween safety protocols that are reiterated year-after-year.
Some of the conventional Halloween safety tips include:
- Plan your route ahead of time
- Don’t let young kids trick-or-treat by themselves
- Carry a flashlight or glow stick
- Drive carefully and slowly, especially in residential areas
- Always use the crosswalk and street signals when they’re available and don’t enter the road until you’re sure it’s safe
So, beyond the usual advice, what should you bear in mind for a COVID Halloween?
What Should You Base Decisions On?
Every individual needs to think about their COVID risk level and the risk for their household. As a parent, you’ve probably been doing risk assessments for months now.
You want to think about not just the risk of participating in certain events for you and your children but also the people you come in contact with regularly such as teachers or grandparents.
You also want to look at:
- What are the community levels of COVID-19 where you live? You can consider community spread in general, and the community spread where people might come from to attend certain events. You can look at not just the number of cases in your community but the percent of positive cases compared to tests. Your local health department will have this information.
- How many people will be participating in a gathering if that’s what you’re thinking about doing? The more people at a particular gathering, the more risk. Smaller events do tend to be safer than larger events.
- How long will the gathering last? Longer gatherings are riskier than shorter ones.
- Are you thinking about attending an indoor or outdoor event? Outdoor events are safer from an infection control perspective than indoor events, so if you can do something outdoors, opt for that.
- Do the people that you might spend Halloween with have similar behaviors to your own? Do they regularly wear masks? Do they limit trips to non-essential places? That could play a role in your decision on how to spend Halloween, especially if you have vulnerable people in your family.
Specific events that are considered somewhat high-risk during COVID include:
- Traditional trick-or-treating
- Indoor costume parties
- Indoor haunted houses where people are close together and likely screaming
- Traveling for a festival in a community with a high rate of community spread
People Who Shouldn’t Participate in Halloween Events
There are certain cases where no one in your household or family should participate in Halloween events with others.
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you’re not yet at the point where you’re considered safe to be around others, stay home this year.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you’re waiting for test results, you should stay home this year too.
If you’re worried about COVID-19, trick-or-treating might be off the table in your family. It may also be that not many people in your neighborhood are participating.
There are still things you can do, however.
For example, maybe you leave candy outside your door and only go to houses that do the same. If you do that, you will need to sanitize the wrappers and your hands frequently, but at least you’re taking the face-to-face interactions out of it.
You can do virtual events, like a virtual costume party. You can invite as many people as you want if you go with a virtual party, and you can make it a fun competition to see who has the best costume.
Decorating pumpkins can be a good option this year, and you can also encourage people on your street or in your neighborhood to participate. Perhaps you turn this into a friendly competition as well.
Another option some parents are doing if they aren’t comfortable with trick-or-treating is doing a candy hide-and-seek game.
You hide individually wrapped pieces of candy throughout your house and yard, and let your kids have fun finding it.
Drive through events are popular this year. A lot of haunted house attractions are retooling their events to be drive-through, in fact.
If your kids are too young for something too scary, you can always arrange a drive-through event in your neighborhood. You can have everyone stay in their vehicles and maybe pick-up treat bags with individually wrapped items and check out decorations.
Can You Safely Trick-or-Treat?
There’s always an inherent risk with an activity involving other people right now, so no one can tell you what’s safe or not safe for you. That’s up to you, but if you decide to take your kids trick-or-treating, considering the following safety tips.
- Wear masks. Most costume masks probably aren’t going to do much to stop germ spread, so keep that in mind.
- Rather than trick-or-treating with a group of kids, try to just go with the people in your home.
- Only go to a few homes rather than trying to hit the entire neighborhood. Visit a few of the neighbors you know best.
- Of course, remember to social distance even during trick-or-treating.
- If you’re the one handing out candy this year, you might wear gloves and hand out pieces individually rather than having trick-or-treaters reach into a communal bowl.
Certainly, Halloween 2020 may be different this year, but there are options to get creative with how you celebrate and make sure it’s still memorable for your kids.
You should also always assess your own risk tolerance in any of these situations. What’s right for one family may not be right for another, and that’s up to you to decide ultimately.