Like almost everything else, Halloween will look a little different this year. COVID-19 safety should be a top priority as we all start to think about decorations, candy and costumes.

Unfortunately, some of our favorite Halloween traditions involve activities we know are a risk for spreading the coronavirus. Costume parties and haunted houses are generally indoors and crowded. Trick-or-treating usually involves face-to-face contact with many people and touching items like candy buckets that can become contaminated with viruses. And, screaming is part of the fun, but also generates above normal respiratory droplets that can travel farther through the air and spread infection.

Despite the added challenges of celebrating the beloved holiday in 2020, there are still many ways families can have fun on Halloween and stay healthy.

Social distancing and plenty of hand sanitizer should be part of any plan. Everyone should be wearing cloth masks that cover both mouth and nose when out-and-about or greeting trick-or-treaters. Keep in mind, costume masks are usually designed with holes for easier breathing and are not intended for infection mitigation. They do not suffice as a safety measure. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends dispensing with costume masks all-together this year because putting one on top of your cloth mask could be dangerous because it makes breathing difficult. 

Some trick-or-treating alternatives for making the holiday safer, yet still enjoyable for the kids include:

  • at-home trick-or-treating with just your family,
  • outdoor pumpkin carving or decorating stations that are at least six feet apart,
  • outdoor Halloween scavenger hunts,
  • Halloween movie night at home with your nearest and dearest or as a drive-in activity, or
  • socially distanced Halloween parade for the neighborhood.

If you are committed to tick-or-treating and it is allowed in your area, here are some strategies recommended by the National Safety Council that will help to keep your family and others safe.

When you are giving out treats

  • Make individual goodie bags – filled with fun-size candy. (The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing bags.)
  • Wear a mask whenever you interact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Post fun signs in your yard that remind trick-or-treaters to stay 6 feet apart.
  • Find creative ways to give out candy so that the trick-or-treaters don’t have to get close. Maybe place individually wrapped treats or goodie bags on your lawn or driveway, 6 feet apart for individuals to take.
  • Have hand sanitizer on your front stoop available for trick-or-treaters to use.

If you are trick-or-treating

  • Carry a trick-or-treating care pack with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and extra face masks. Use the sanitizer after picking a piece of candy, and help little ones clean their hands throughout the night.
  • Before approaching someone’s home or a group of trick-or-treaters, stop in a safe place, and make sure everyone’s masks are covering their mouths and noses.
  • Keep a 6-foot distance from other groups of trick-or-treaters. If another group is at a door, wait until they’re finished before you approach.
  • It’s hard to stop kids from screaming, but if you see something spooky ahead of your group, make sure you are a good distance from others (at least 12 feet.)
  • When you get home, wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Let the candy sit for 24 hours, or sanitize the wrappers, before eating.
  • Throw out any candy that’s open or has torn packaging or anything homemade.

With some care and creativity, Halloween 2020 doesn’t have to be scarier than usual. Just remember to wear your masks, keep your distance, wash your hands….and, maybe, keep the screaming to a minimum.