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Celebrate Halloween Safely During a Pandemic

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many, but how can it be celebrated safely during a pandemic?

Everyone in my office knows that I love Halloween – it’s so fun to dress up at work for the day and see all the kids in their costumes. Our office is already all decked out this year!

Our office has fun decorating for Halloween each year!

We always need to think about Halloween safety, but the risks are higher during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Risks

As our communities are opening up and kids are returning to activities and school, many parents are feeling more comfortable with kids interacting with other, but the question remains: What about Halloween?

We all want to let our kids get back to normal – or at least get back to as much as possible, but we need to do our part to help protect our families and our communities.

The more we open things back up, the more infections we see.

Yes, the large majority of people seem to have mild illness and recover quickly, but we never know which of the minority will get seriously ill or die. We don’t know long term complications. If nothing else, we don’t want the inconvenience of having to quarantine at home if we learn we were exposed.

It’s dangerous to presume that since kids are in class together they should be able to hang out with each other without precautions. Schools have enacted many safety measures to help prevent COVID-19 spread. If your kids go home and hang out unmasked with friends, it increases risk for them and the other kids in class.

I don’t want to take the fun out of our children’s lives. We just need to alter Halloween activities to make them safer. What is safe for one family might not be safe enough for another, depending on your family’s unique situation. Some families are able to accept more risk than others, but it’s important to take some precautions even if you’re not afraid of COVID-19 infections in your home.

Remember your actions impact others in your community. Many people are infected by someone who did not have any symptoms – unaware they were contagious.

Don’t put others at risk by choosing activities that increase the probability of sharing an unrecognized infection. Please use precautions to avoid sharing COVID-19 with someone who has a higher risk for infection.

Update: Dr. Krupa Playforth has a fabulous post How to Celebrate Halloween Safely This Year. She has many fun suggestions and offers a link to a site that has a searchable community COVID19 risk level database that’s color coded to then see suggested Halloween activities based on risk. It’s cool… check it out!

Halloween Activities By Risk Levels

The following lists are adapted from the CDC’s recommendations. They are based on what we currently know about how COVID-19 spreads.

  • Close contacts are more likely to share than those who are further away.
  • Masks help prevent the virus from spreading as we breathe, talk, laugh, and scream.
  • Touching the front of your mask increases the risk of contamination. If you need to adjust it frequently, fix the fit.
  • Germs enter our body from our eyes, nose and mouth – don’t touch those areas unless you can clean your hands before and after.
  • Singing, coughing, screaming, and other activities that involve larger air movements in/out of our lungs spread the virus further. A distance of more than 6 feet is recommended with these activities.
  • Outdoors is safer than indoors. Indoor areas with better ventilation are safer than areas with poor air circulation but still not as safe as outside.
  • The more people in a group, the more likely someone is infected. This is why smaller gatherings are recommended.

All of the activities include wearing a mask when with people outside of your household and maintaining at least a 6 foot distance.

Clean hands and surfaces as indicated.

Lower risk activities:

These activities are felt to be the safest options.

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with household members.
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside with friends, masked and at a distance.
  • Decorate your home inside and out.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt of Halloween-themed items outside. Seekers should wear masks and keep their distance from one other.
  • Host a virtual Halloween costume contest.
  • Host a Halloween movie night with household members.
  • Walk around your neighborhood with household members looking at yard decorations and fall color changes of trees.

Moderate risk activities:

If community COVID-19 rates are low, these activities may be considered. The higher the rates in a community, the riskier these activities become. If your community rates are high, consider some of the lower risk activities.

  • Participate in trick or treat without face to face contact. Some ideas:
    • Arrange goodies outside so they are easy for kids to grab and go.
    • Hang a PVC pipe to slide treats to kids. Some ideas here and here.
    • Use directional signs to keep traffic moving in one direction.
    • Encourage kids to keep moving to avoid groups clustering together.
  • Outdoor parade with everyone masked and physically distanced.
  • Outdoor costume contest. Note: costume masks do not protect from infection spread. Use face coverings that cover the nose and mouth appropriately.
  • Walk through an open air, one way, walk through haunted forest. Everyone should wear a mask and maintain at least a 6 foot distance. If screaming is anticipated, a further distance is recommended.
  • Visit pumpkin patches where masks are worn and distance can be maintained.
  • Apple picking with masks and proper distance.
  • Project a Halloween movie onto an outer wall of your home. Seat friends and families at least 6 feet from one another in the yard. If screaming is anticipated, greater distancing is advised.

High risk activities:

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent community COVID-19 spread.

  • Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door.
  • Trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.
  • Crowded costume parties held indoors.
  • Indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming.
  • Hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household.
  • Using alcohol or drugs. These can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors.
  • Traveling to a different community – COVID19 can spread from one community to another with increased travel.
celebrate Halloween safely - risk considerations

For more

CDC Holiday Recommendations

I Wear a Mask Except

Wear a Mask, Yes Even Most Kids Can Do It

By DrStuppy

I am a pediatrician and mother of two teens. I have a passion for sharing health related information.

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