Halloween tips and ideas to safely celebrate during the coronavirus pandemic

Is it possible to celebrate Halloween safely? Yes, with precaution, say experts. (Photo: Getty Images)
Is it possible to celebrate Halloween safely? Yes, with precaution, say experts. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ghosts, goblins and witches were not spared by the coronavirus pandemic as Halloween takes new shape this year. But it is possible to celebrate with some new safety measures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many activities on Halloween can be considered “high-risk” for spreading COVID-19, as they can compromise social distancing measures that reduce person-to-person transmission. This year, many states discourage traditional celebrations altogether: Kentucky recommends its residents leave individually-wrapped candy in their driveways for trick-or-treaters, New Jersey suggests that neighbors work together to distinguish homes with candy to lessen foot traffic and Illinois discourages trick-or-treating with groups from different households. And California suggests sending a “curated playlist” or treats to friends ahead of the holiday.

However, making adjustments doesn’t mean that Halloween can’t happen. “Families should anticipate canceled activities, but there is absolutely an opportunity to get creative and be safe,” Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn. tells Yahoo Life.

The CDC considers trick-or-treating, indoor activities like costume parties and haunted houses and hayrides with people who are not in your household as “higher risk” activities. And if activities potentially cause people to scream, the CDC says people should space out further than the recommended six feet, as shouting can farther expel droplets.

Visiting picturesque rural towns (for festivals, pumpkin patches or beautiful photography backdrops) isn’t recommended by the CDC either, because remote residents often have less access to health care and are less likely to carry health insurance, putting them at higher risk for severe illness.

With that in mind, here are some safer ideas for celebrating.

Wear costumes that accommodate face masks

Although some Halloween costumes cover the face or the entire head, they can’t replace paper or cloth face masks (made with at least two layers of breathable fabric) says Mattke, advice also shared by the CDC and various state counties in their Halloween guidelines.

And don’t double up by wearing a standard mask under a costume, says Mattke, which could obstruct breathing. Instead, wear a Halloween-themed cloth mask or use makeup or face paint to accentuate your costume.

Modify trick-or-treating plans

Trick-or-treating — roaming in packs, bottlenecking at people’s homes and shoving hands into communal candy dishes — is discouraged by the CDC. If you do it, it’s always best to mask up and travel with household members or limit the group size altogether (however, check your local and state guidelines for best practices).

“The idea is to reduce risk because we know we can’t eliminate it,” Brian Labus, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, tells Yahoo Life.

Labus says wearing gloves isn’t necessary, as infection from a contaminated surface isn’t a common route of transmission. “Most people don’t use or remove gloves properly,” he tells Yahoo Life, which can potentially spread infection. “They aren’t a magic barrier and often provide an illusion of safety.”

If you’re staying home and answering the door, wear a mask and distance yourself from trick-or-treaters as best you can: Use a pair of tongs to grab and distribute candy or place individually-wrapped goodie bags at the end of your property, the latter of which the CDC categorizes as a “moderate” risk. Also, wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling the bags.

Mattke also suggests posting one-way foot traffic signs around the neighborhood, similar to grocery stores rules that minimize congestion. (The CDC deems this traffic flow a “moderate” risk when applied to an outdoor, one-directional walk-through attraction).

And let these creative people inspire you: A family in Ohio went viral for their “candy shoot,” a long cardboard tube that shoots candy into the hands or buckets of children. One software engineer built a 6-foot remote-controlled robot with a power wheelchair, which he’ll utilize to deliver candy around his Austin, Texas neighborhood. And this candy-carrying ghost zipline in Garden City, Mich., entertains kids and delivers treats from a distance.

Get spooked in your car

If you’re bored at home, but uncomfortable outside, the car is a safe compromise. Search for drive-through attractions in your area — in Los Angeles, a Stranger Things-themed Drive-Into Experience teleports guests into The Upside Down and The Haunted Road in Orlando, Fla., invites guests to “Follow Rapunzel's journey as she leaves her tower for the first time and enters a world of disarray.”

Children don’t have to miss out either. Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa., is hosting The Not-Too-Spooky Halloween Drive-Thru featuring the beloved characters, various zoos offer animal-themed car adventures, or parents can organize car parades.

Another alternative is “reverse trick-or-treating” which Sacramento County in California suggests in its Halloween guidance. Instead of walking door-to-door, neighbors drop off bags of candy on each other’s doorsteps.

One car-related activity the CDC discourages is “trunk-or-treating” whereby kids retrieve candy from car trunks that are parked in a line.

Celebrate at home

Carving pumpkins, watching scary movies, competing in virtual costume contests or organizing a scavenger hunt, in or nearby your home, are CDC-approved low-risk activities.

Additionally, the neighborhood social networking site Nextdoor’s Treat Map, which launched in 2013, lets users pin their location on a map to indicate how homes are celebrating virtually so neighbors can get inspired or plan to walk or drive through decorated areas. (In past years, the pins let users know which homes were offering candy).

For kids, the online educational marketplace Outschool is offering Halloween classes such as murder mystery adventures, escape rooms and more. A spokesperson from Outschool tells Yahoo Life that most classes cost anywhere between $10-$15 (with some classes as costing as little as $5) and there are options for lower-income families.

However you celebrate, everyone gets a Halloween surprise: according to NASA, the second full moon of the month will appear on Halloween night, an event the Farmer’s Almanac says happens about once every 19 years. Celebrate with a backyard sleepover, sky-gaze or watch a space-themed movie.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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