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Thinking about trick-or-treating? Here’s what the CDC recommends this Halloween

With spooky season around the corner, many people are wondering if trick-or-treating will be a possibility this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered guidelines on how to safely celebrate Halloween, while also offering alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating. On its website's holiday celebration page, it categorizes lower risk, moderate risk and higher risk activities that typically take place in October.

The CDC advises against participating in Halloween festivities — including passing out candy to trick-or-treaters — if you "may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.”

Instead of trick-or-treating, the public health institute recommends a few safer options.

Lower risk activities

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating with household members
  • Pumpkin carving or decorating outside, socially distanced with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house or living space for Halloween
  • Conducting a Halloween scavenger hunt for children to spot spooky-themed items around their neighborhood or community, while admiring other people’s outdoor decorations
  • Holding an online Halloween costume contest
  • Hosting a Halloween movie night with people in your household
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search around your home rather than walking door-to-door
A young chicken puts Halloween candy in his bag during the annual Trunk or Treat at Rock Creek Park Oct. 31. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Moderate risk activities

  • One-way trick-or-treating where children pick up individually wrapped goodie bags — located at the edge of a yard or driveway — while practicing social distancing.
  • If you are preparing the treats, the CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water at least 20 seconds before and after assembling the bags. 
  • Holding a small group costume parade outside with people distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party outdoors where everyone is wearing protective masks and remaining 6 feet apart from others
  • The CDC states that a Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. However, a costume mask can be used if it is made of two or more layers of fabric and covers the mouth and nose, leaving no gaps around the face.
  • The CDC advises against wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it could become difficult to breathe.
  • Visiting an open-air, one-way walk-through haunted forest where masks are required, and social distancing is possible
  • Going to pumpkin patches or orchards where masks are encouraged, social distancing is possible, and people sanitize their hands before touching the pumpkins or apples
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with friends and family where people are socially distanced
trunk or treat 2
Bryce Blair, 19 months, dresses an aviator complete with an airplane for Halloween at Rock Creek Park. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Higher risk activities

The CDC recommends avoiding these activities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Taking part in traditional trick-or-treating where goodies are handed out from door-to-door
  • Participating in trunk-or-treat events where treats are given to children in parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties indoors
  • Visiting an indoor haunted house with the potential for large crowds and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with non-household members
  • Using alcohol or drugs, “which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors”
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that isn’t in your area if you live somewhere with community-spread COVID-19

Dr. John Delzell, vice president for graduate medical education and COVID-19 incident commander for Northeast Georgia Health System, said he recommends looking at the CDC’s guidance before deciding on how to celebrate Halloween. 

“Generally wearing masks is going to be really important,” he said. “One of the things that the CDC pointed out was just because you’re wearing a Halloween mask, that shouldn’t replace a cloth mask most of the time. Those cloth masks do a better job of filtering the virus.”

Delzell said traditional trick-or-treating may not be safe option this season because of its crowd-gathering nature.

“That’s probably not a great idea,” he said. “You want to get more social distancing in the process.”