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Halloween During COVID-19

By: Dr. Janice Montague (Suffern, NY)

Fall is in the air; the leaves are turning colors and next up is a kid’s favorite holiday-Halloween. A 2020 Halloween will likely look a lot different than a typical Halloween in this pandemic. Parents have so many questions. How to keep our kids safe, how to still give them fun and festivities, trick or treating, and how to make them still feel like kids. I’m not here to say it will be easy, but I’m here to chat about a Halloween that can be fun and safe and while nowhere near the festivities of the past, still bring smiles to that adorable cat-eared, Darth Vader and Princess Elsa face.

First up can we trick or treat? My answer is yes, but with many caveats. First, we have to look at your individual community risk. The Harvard Global Institute put out a color-coded map that shows COVID-19 risk by county. Also, consider your own personal and family risk factors for contracting COVID. No one is ideally safe from this disease, even young people without pre-existing conditions have gotten very sick and died. If you decide to trick or treat then stay with your own family, avoid large groups of trick or treaters. Perhaps don’t eat any of the candy immediately. Clean off the candy at home with a disinfectant wipe and as always throw all partiality opened candy away. I would make sure all family members are wearing a well-fitted mask and maintain 6 feet of social distance at doors as best you can. Don’t put a Halloween mask over another mask though. This year I would refrain from anything over the face except cloth or medical type mask. Sanitize hands between each home as well. Perhaps neighbors can have a table or porch set up with individual bags to take home. A sort of serving yourself area. This will prevent face to face contact. Even with this, I would not have my kids eat the candy until cleaned off or waiting a few days. We think COVID doesn’t stay on most paper type surfaces, but I’m not sure the verdict is in on that. I will probably be setting up pre-packaged gift bags and leaving them on my porch for kids to grab. I think ideally since trick or treat is outdoors it can be done safely, but very differently than we have seen it in the past.

Some families are considering a trunk or treat Halloween. I’m not sure this is very different from trick or treating, except for one thing more people are together at one time. This is not ideal even outdoors. However, if this is how you will be enjoying Halloween, I’d advise one child/family goes to each trunk at a time, maintaining social distance and all are masked. Again, no one should eat the candy immediately and everyone needs to sanitize their hands between cars. BUT again, I would rather see individual bags prepacked instead of a large bowl or trunk full of candy to pick from.

We will be seeing a very different Halloween this year regardless of how you will celebrate but the one thing I would discourage is an indoor party and an outdoor party with more than 10. I believe outdoor activities can indeed be done safely, with small groups and masked if 6 feet of social distance can be maintained. The COVID-19 virus spreads easily without masks and when appropriate social distancing is not followed. Children have been affected by COVID-19, hospitalized, and have died. Parties as we know from college students can help spread this virus very quickly. So, refrain from indoor events and large outdoor gatherings.

There are many things we can do for Halloween. We can have a block pumpkin or house decorating contest, we can drop off Halloween treats at our friends’ doorsteps, we can enjoy our families at home with treats, art, and pumpkin decorating. This will be a different Halloween, but I know as adults we can still make it fun and full of memories.