Halloween is the highlight of the fall season and one of the most popular holidays of the year. From spooky decorations and costume parties to school celebrations and trick-or-treating, children and adults alike look forward to Halloween all year long.
In 2020, the coronavirus will challenge the traditional way that we celebrate both leading up to Oct. 31 and Halloween itself. While Halloween holiday safety is our priority every year, the coronavirus presents a new set of obstacles that will alter the activities we otherwise take for granted. Public health officials have already begun to issue protocols for fall and winter, including holidays like Halloween.
Below, we’re breaking down what parents need to know specifically about trick-or-treating safety as well as the safest way to celebrate Halloween this year.
Trick-or-Treating and COVID-19
Trick-or-treating may be one of the activities that looks the most different as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. This doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or festive, though!
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: Traditional trick-or-treating is considered high-risk this year. We’re defining traditional trick-or-treating as medium or large groups of children (more than four) in costumes going door-to-door and collecting candy directly from other households. This kind of activity exposes the trick-or-treaters, their parents and guardians and the neighborhood to high levels of COVID-19 spread. This type of activity should be avoided, especially if you or someone in your home is at a high-risk for the virus.
“One-way trick-or-treating” is considered a moderate risk. What does this look like? Households line up individually wrapped candies or goodie bags for families to grab and take to go while adhering to social distancing. These goodies can be placed at the end of the driveway or on a card table at the edge of the yard and replenished between visits. When possible, traffic on the street should continue in one direction, so children and families are not doubling back or crossing paths directly with other families. As always, masks are a must for anyone over the age of 2.
If you plan to trick-or-treat safely and your community has cleared this activity, the first step will be to determine the people in your Halloween group. Recommendations are encouraging groups no larger than three or four kids from the same household. Use hand sanitizer frequently and practice good hand hygiene if you are packaging up goodie bags for others.
If COVID-19 infection levels are high in your area, consider sitting this year out. According to the CDC, “Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.” New Orleans residents can track the latest updates related to COVID-19 and community spread here.
But even without trick-or-treating, there are plenty of ways to have fun at home, which we’ll cover next.
Low-Risk Halloween Activities
The CDC is promoting the following Halloween activities as lower risk for spreading COVID-19. As an alternative to moderate or high-risk gatherings and attractions, you should consider:
- Pumpkin carving with your immediate household or outside at a safe distance more than 6 feet apart with neighbors and friends. These preschool pumpkin craft ideas are a safer alternative to full-fledged pumpkin carving if you have little ones.
- Setting up a Halloween scavenger hunt in your neighborhood where your family can scout for various decorations at a safe distance from the street.
- A candy scavenger hunt in your home and yard is another fun way to stay safe while celebrating.
- Host a virtual Halloween costume party with friends and family complete with costume competitions and prizes.
- Organize a scary movie film festival or movie night with your immediate household, with plenty of festive snacks and beverages.
Halloween Costume Parties, Haunted Houses and COVID-19
As a popular tourist destination and region which prides itself on creative costuming, Halloween is a big deal in Louisiana. We’re used to gathering in large groups for elaborate costume parties, parades, fall music festivals, haunted houses and other frightful attractions.
This year, many local Halloween celebrations, including the Voodoo Arts + Music Festival and the annual Krewe of Boo parade in New Orleans, have been canceled in light of the pandemic. The CDC has classified indoor haunted houses, crowded indoor costume parties and traveling to rural fall festivals outside of your community in the highest-risk tier of activities. Similar to singing, screaming releases particles into the air, which can contain COVID-19. And unfortunately, dim, crowded and poorly ventilated environments often double as the perfect settings for a frightening haunted house.
This year, we encourage you to avoid indoor activities and environments where people may be crowded together and screaming. If you do visit a haunted attraction, plan on adhering to all local and regional guidelines while exercising social distancing and wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.
Adult Halloween parties and activities often involve costumes and alcohol consumption, making partygoers less careful about social distancing. Planning to host a get-together at home? Pay attention to any local restrictions on the number of attendees and hold the party outdoors if possible. Indoor spaces should be as ventilated as conditions allow, with opened windows, fans and doors to facilitate airflow throughout the room. Space tables and chairs out in order to allow for social distancing and keep masks on when indoors or less than 6 feet apart. Encouraging guests to bring their own food is another precautionary measure you can take to ensure everyone stays safe.
Halloween Masks and COVID-19
A Halloween costume mask is also not a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is constructed of two or more breathable fabric layers, closes gaps around the face, and covers the mouth and nose. Experts suggest subbing your regular or surgical mask for a festive Halloween themed cloth mask that will keep you safe while adding a touch of Halloween spirit.
COVID-19 is scary enough as it is, so we encourage everyone to be extra safe this year while celebrating. Happy Halloween!
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control Holiday Celebrations Guidelines (Issued Sept. 12, 2020)
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.
For the Latest Updates from Ochsner on COVID-19, visit Ochsner.org/coronavirus