Halloween Isn't Canceled! Here's How To Celebrate the Holiday Without Getting—or Spreading—COVID-19
In a year full of canceled vacations, socially distant celebrations, and postponed events, we’re all desperate to hold on to any festivity and sense of normalcy we can get our hands on—including Halloween.
The tradition of going door to door for candy or inching your way through a haunted house is a sketchy proposition in a pandemic world. But if the idea of sacrificing Halloween altogether this year is just too spooky to endure, we talked with health experts about ways you can celebrate while keeping a safe distance from others and minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We're here to save Halloween, folks!
Reimagine Halloween festivities for the social distancing era
It’s hard to imagine hordes of kids walking door to door and asking for candy these days.
But just because you can’t do Halloween the same way this year doesn’t mean you have to forgo your favorite activities. Take haunted houses, for example: An indoor haunted house would be a real nightmare during a pandemic. But with a little creativity, you can still enjoy the experience.
“I’ve heard of groups putting together drive-through haunted house experiences, which seems like a fun but safe way to get into the Halloween spirit,” says Dr.Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
And let’s face it: Halloween wouldn’t be the same without candy. But trick-or-treating is tough to pull off without making contact with the neighbors. One solution? Give your Halloween candy the Easter egg treatment.
“You may choose to skip trick-or-treating completely and do a scavenger hunt with your children to find Halloween-themed items as they walk through the neighborhood looking at the decorations from a distance,” says Dr. Kavita Shanker-Patel, a family medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “A socially distanced Halloween costume parade is also another fun way to help kids enjoy the holiday.”
Get creative about doling out candy
Trick-or-treating inherently comes with some risk of spreading the virus; any activity where social distancing is hard to maintain presents a moderate risk, Shanker-Patel says.
If your neighborhood is intent on keeping the trick-or-treat spirit alive this year, you’ll need to rethink the traditional method of handing out candy from your doorstep.
You might be tempted to leave a bowl of candy in front of the house so kids can help themselves, but this isn’t a good idea either—it just creates a free-for-all for germs to spread.
“I don't recommend leaving candy in a bowl where many hands will come into contact with it,” Moorjani says. “I've heard of people creating ‘candy chutes’ where they slide treats to trick-or-treaters in a contactless, but fun way.”
Another candy bowl alternative is to spread out pieces of candy on a table (or in individually wrapped goodie bags), Shanker-Patel says. “As the children walk by, they can pick them up on their own.”
No matter how you dole out the sweet stuff, it’s important for all treats to be individually wrapped or sealed. Don’t forget to thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands before handling treats.
If you go trick-or-treating, plan your route
As you traverse the neighborhood, avoid gathering in large groups or making contact with anyone outside of your household. You may need to zigzag across the street more often than usual, or set up parameters in your neighborhood to limit trick-or-treating routes. For example, if you have an even-numbered address, maybe you trick-or-treat only on the even side of the street.
Homeowners can also do their part by clearly marking what a safe distance looks like.
“It may be helpful to draw markings along the sidewalk and driveway indicating 6-feet distance,” Shanker-Patel says.
And don’t leave home without this year’s hottest Halloween accessories: a bottle of hand sanitizer and a mask that covers your mouth and nose.
Mask up (costume masks don't count)
Speaking of masks, you can’t rely on a mask that’s part of your costume to do the job of keeping you and others safe.
“A Halloween costume mask does not suffice, unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face,” Shanker-Patel says.
Encourage proper hygiene before kids chow down
Resist the temptation to start snacking on your candy before you get home. This year, you’ll want to be extra careful before diving into your hard-earned loot.
“Right now, we don't have any research or data that would suggest that kids need to wait a certain amount of time before eating candy,” Moorjani says, but “we still encourage proper hand hygiene for everyone before consuming Halloween candy and treats. And just like any year, don't let your children consume candy that is not properly wrapped or sealed.”
Embrace new traditions
Sure, it’s going to be a little different from last year, but that doesn’t mean Halloween is canceled.
“Families have the opportunity to create new Halloween traditions,” Moorjani says. “Kids can still dress up in costumes at home, they can watch family Halloween movies together, and they can create Halloween-themed treats or arts and crafts.”
And remember: Outdoor activities like hayrides and pumpkin patches might still be open in your area, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100% safe.
“As always, limiting exposure to others is the most effective way of containing the spread of this disease, so if you don't have to do these things, then we recommend you don't,” Shanker-Patel says.
Lauren Sieben is a writer in Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Washington Post, Milwaukee Magazine, and other outlets.