Here's how the CDC says you can celebrate Halloween safely

Abby Haglage
·5 mins read

Two weeks after authorities in Los Angeles announced that trick-or-treating is “not recommended” this year due to COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a document detailing how individuals in regions where trick-or-treating has not been discouraged can do it safely.

The information page — which also includes guidance on the Mexican holiday Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) — distinguishes between which activities allow for the most protection on Halloween and which could potentially put kids in danger. “Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the CDC writes. “There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.”

Worried about how to celebrate Halloween safely? The CDC issued guidance on which activities are considered "lower-risk" and which should be avoided. (Photo: Getty Images)
Worried about how to celebrate Halloween safely? The CDC issued guidance on which activities are considered "lower-risk" and which should be avoided. (Getty Images)

Before doing so, the CDC notes that anyone who “may have COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19” should neither participate in in-person activities nor give out candy. But for those who do not have the virus and aren’t aware of the exposure, the organization offers some creative solutions.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University medical center, says the advice aligns with the CDC’s existing safety protocols. “It’s consistent with doing things as separately as possible, staying outside, not going to large group activities and wearing masks,” Schaffner tells Yahoo Life.

Yahoo Life Medical Contributor Dr. Dara Kass agrees, calling the guidelines “consistent” and suggesting that those who say Halloween during COVID-19 is “not feasible” are off the mark. “We’re modifying all of our activities with respect to this virus, and that includes Halloween,” says Kass. “There are lots of ways to celebrate holidays. We shouldn’t avoid celebrations with kids because we can’t expect them to follow the rules. There’s new rules and it’s a new time. So let’s move forward.”

For those who still want to celebrate, here’s what the CDC suggests you do to stay safe.

Lower-risk activities

Since the main route of transmission for the virus is believed to be person-to-person through respiratory droplets or aerosols (smaller particles), the CDC’s recommendations on “lower-risk activities” mostly involve limiting interactions with others, and getting creative with your family. Among the recommended lower-risk activities are:

  • Carving pumpkins with your household — or, if outside and at a safe distance, with friends.

  • Decorating your living space with other members of your household.

  • Hosting a scavenger hunt where kids are given “lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.”

  • Creating a virtual Halloween costume contest or putting together a movie night with your household.

  • Trick-or-treating within your home, through a scavenger hunt or other game.

Moderate-risk activities

For those who are comfortable with some level of risk, and who live in regions where community transmission is relatively low (this map can help determine where you land), the CDC offers some altered versions of the more traditional Halloween gatherings. The organization notes that for any events that may be spooky — and prompt screaming — that “greater distancing is advised; the greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.”

For moderate-risk activities, the agency recommends:

  • Facilitating “one-way trick-or-treating” by placing “individually wrapped goodie bags” somewhere outside, such as on the driveway or yard. The organization notes that before doing this, individuals should wash their hands with soap or water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Hosting or attending an outdoor costume parade in which individuals are separated by more than 6 feet and are using protective masks (which can be Halloween-themed).

  • Exploring an “open, airy, one-way, walk-through haunted forest” while wearing a mask.

  • Visiting a pumpkin patch or orchard where individuals “use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples.” The CDC recommends picking a place in which “wearing masks is encouraged or enforced and people are able to maintain social distancing.”

  • Creating an outdoor Halloween movie night.

High-risk activities

While the CDC doesn’t suggest that Halloween should be avoided, given the more than 6 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. the organization does outline the activities that may put kids and parents in more danger. The CDC especially cautions against:

  • Traditional trick-or-treating door-to-door in which kids are given candy by neighbors.

  • “Trunk-or-treats,” where kids are given candy from large cars or trucks.

  • Indoor costume parties or haunted houses, especially where individuals may be screaming.

  • Hayrides or tractor rides, unless done with people from your household.

  • Consuming mood-altering substances like alcohol or drugs, which “can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors.”

  • Traveling to a fall festival or other gathering in a different community, where the transmission rate of COVID-19 may vary.

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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