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Halloween Safety: How to celebrate the holiday that has always had masks!

October 21, 2020
Published in: COVID-19

Mother putting a fabric mask on her daughter

As summer fades into fall, the leaves change, the weather cools and we begin a season with many traditional holidays. One of the first of these is Halloween.

Each community will probably determine its own official Halloween activities, but it's important to remember that many traditional Halloween activities could present a high-risk for spreading the virus. So the first consideration is: If you or anyone in your family is suspected of having COVID-19 or if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should not participate in any Halloween activities—including passing out treats to trick-or-treaters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traditional Halloween activities can be sorted into three risk categories: Lower rise, moderate risk and higher risk.

Lower risk activities, which can be considered safe alternatives, are:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate risk activities are:

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than six feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than six feet apart
    • A costume mask (such as the one that comes with a Halloween costume) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used 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.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume makes it hard to breath. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced and people can remain more than six feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks in encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least six feet apart
    • If screaming will like occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus

Higher risk activities should be avoided to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. They are:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treats where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

Special Steps to take if you do Trick-or-Treat

Trick-or-treating is fun, but can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 or the seasonal flu. Evaluate risk carefully. If you do decide to participate in trick-or-treating, here are some ways to make it safer:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters
  • Give out treats outdoors if possible
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take
    • Wash hands before preparing treats
  • Wear a mask
    • Make your cloth mask part of your costume
    • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it will make breathing more difficult
    • Masks should not be worn by children under 2 years of age or anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you
    • Indoors or outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.
  • Wash your hands
    • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people
    • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
    • Parents should supervise young children using hand sanitizer
    • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home or before eating any treats