Halloween during COVID-19: Is it safe to go trick-or-treating during the pandemic?
Fall is here, and that’s got many people thinking about Halloween and other autumn activities. But as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, you may be wondering if it’s safe for kids to trick-or-treat — or for you to hand out candy. Are there safer ways to celebrate Halloween during a pandemic?
We checked in with our infectious diseases and infection control specialist Roy Chemaly, M.D. Here’s what he had to say.
Is it safe to go trick-or-treating during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The safest way to observe Halloween is by limiting your celebration to members of your own household — and by doing it at home rather than going trick-or-treating. You don’t want to have a bunch of kids from different families all running around together, because that makes it harder to practice social distancing.
A lot of criteria would have to be met in order to trick-or-treat safely this year, including:
living in an area where there’s not widespread COVID-19 community transmission,
only going to a few houses where you know the people are carefully following COVID-19 precautions,
not having COVID-19 and not having potentially been exposed recently to someone who does, and
only going with members of your own household.
Realistically, it will be hard to meet all of these criteria to trick-or-treat safely during the pandemic. So, this year, it’s a good idea to think about other, low-risk activities you can do to celebrate Halloween.
What are some Halloween options that might be safer than trick-or-treating during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Hold a scavenger hunt in your house or yard, watch a scary movie together, carve pumpkins, or have a virtual Halloween costume contest.
Some people also host “trunk-or-treats.” This may be a relatively low-risk option if you do it only with a small group of people you know. Just make sure the cars are well-separated and you don’t get too close to other people.
What about other fall activities – like visiting pumpkin patches, attending fall festivals or visiting farms and petting zoos?
It’s hard to make general recommendations for specific events, and it depends, in part, on whether there’s widespread COVID-19 community transmission in your area.
Find out in advance what COVID-19 precautions the event organizers are taking. If it seems like they’re taking extensive precautions, do your part to protect yourself and others by masking, hand-washing and social distancing as well.
Kids and adults often wear plastic Halloween masks. Do these provide protection against COVID-19?
No. You still need to wear a medical-grade face mask or a cloth mask with multiple layers, because the cheap plastic masks that come with most store-bought costumes don’t act as filters. They just redirect your breath around the edges or through unprotected nose holes. So, they offer no real protection — to you or anyone else.
It can be dangerous to wear a plastic mask over a cloth mask because that can make it harder to breathe. If your child insists on wearing a Halloween mask this year, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
If kids do go trick-or-treating, what precautions should they take when collecting candy during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Once your kids get to someone’s door, they should keep their distance and ask the person to drop a piece of candy in their bag, instead of reaching into a communal bowl to grab something. If the people won’t do it, that’s OK. Just be practical. Make sure your kids don’t touch their faces (or yours!) or eat anything until they’ve had a chance to wash their hands after touching a piece of candy.
You might also consider leaving the candy alone for a while before letting your kids eat it, because the coronavirus is very fragile, so it should be dead after a couple of hours.
This should go without saying, but if your child or someone in your household may have COVID-19 or may have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not go trick-or-treating, hand out candy or participate in other Halloween festivities. Instead, stay home and self-isolate, monitor your temperature, and get tested for COVID-19, if appropriate.
What’s the safest approach if you do have trick-or-treaters in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Consider putting a bowl out on your porch instead, with a sign that reads, “Take one!”
I’ve also heard of people who intend to line up candies individually, so that nobody has to rummage around touching everything just to find something they want.
In both situations, you can monitor your arrangements, replenish your supplies as the night wears on, and avoid interacting with trick-or-treaters. But if you do interact with trick-or-treaters, be sure to wear a face mask or cloth mask, and wash your hands well.