Halloween 2020: Keeping Your Ghosts & Ghouls Safe This Year
New safety guidelines from the CDC discourage Americans from taking part in traditional trick-or-treating, which can be an extra kick in the gut for many families whose children’s usual outlets for fun and socialization have been uprooted this year. That might be why many families are still set on celebrating Halloween during the coronavirus pandemic. A recent Harris Poll notes that 80 percent of those surveyed are planning to head out for trick-or-treating on Halloween. But is trick-or-treating in 2020 safe?
Know the Risks
Compared to other Halloween activities, such as parties or school dances, trick-or-treating brings less of a risk for parents to manage; after all, you’re outside in the fresh air, which the CDC has recommended for many other activities during the pandemic. But whether you’re the one handing out the candy at the door or a parent waiting patiently on the sidewalk, you know just how crowded that front porch can get as kids gather to get their piece of candy.
In fact, CDC officials maintain that having children head door to door comes with the most risk this Halloween. For families wishing to celebrate the holiday this year, the CDC breaks down activities that carry more risk than other safely-distanced options:
- Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
- Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
- Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
- Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
- Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
- Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19
If you and your family still plan on trick-or-treating this year, while it is not recommended, there are adjustments to make it as safe as possible. First, you want to identify the group you plan to go out with. Will it just be your household, or will other households be joining you? Will there be high-risk people in your group? If you’re planning on heading out with a group of friends or extended family, know that visiting people from another household or staying close together for even an hour brings with it a risk of transmission, especially in tight quarters, such as a crowded front porch or sidewalk.
You can limit the risks by making sure your trick-or-treat group stays small — no more than 3 or 4 kids at most. And if you can, choose those who you know have also been practicing safe distancing.
You’ll also want to wear a mask — and no, a Halloween mask won’t do the trick. You can purchase or decorate a mask that coordinates with your child’s costume so it doesn’t take away from the character, but make sure it still follows all of the recommended guidelines for cloth face coverings.
Have a plan before you head out of how many houses you will visit this year. Despite your interactions being brief, meaning a lower risk of transmission, the more households you visit means the greater the chance that germs may spread and linger — especially as others head from door to door.
If you come across a home with a lot of people at the door, stand six feet back and let your child know that you must wait for your turn to head up. If there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight of a crowded front porch lessening up any time soon, let your child know that you can circle back to the house later.
If you’ll be trick-or-treating in an area you’ve done so in the past and you know the busiest houses or times, you can plan ahead and go a little sooner or later than you usually go, or avoid houses that always seem to attract the most visitors.
While touching candy, toys, doors or other surfaces is the least concerning risk, since washing your hands frequently (or using hand sanitizer) can prevent your kiddos from carrying germs home, if your child is likely to rub their eyes, pick their nose, or put their fingers in their mouth while out, you may want to think twice or reiterate how important it is that they not touch their face.
Safer but Still Festive Alternatives
If the thought of trick-or-treating gives you the creepy crawlies more than festively appropriate, you may want to explore safer alternatives that still keep the spirit alive.
These lower-risk activities can be safe alternatives:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
- Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
- Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
- Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors
- Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
- Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
- Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house
If your child still wants to be able to visit their friends or family members this season, you can opt for what Good Housekeeping is calling “ghosting.” You can create treat bags of goodies to leave on their doorstep, but don’t forget to ring the bell before you stand back to let them know you’ve left them a surprise! You can plan to do this during the day when there aren’t any trick-or-treaters out, and the kids can still dress up. If you call ahead, you can even coordinate with parents so that their kiddo who is receiving the goodie bag is dressed up as well to give a happy wave and a “thank you!” at the door.
Think Outside the Box This Halloween
Halloween during the pandemic is a chance for you and your children to get creative, and maybe even invent some new traditions for your family! It’s also a great opportunity to model flexibility and a positive spirit. If you’re excited and make it fun, your kids will have fun, too.