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Is it Safe to Trick-or-Treat? Answers to Parents' Questions About Halloween Safety During COVID-19

Child and Family
Published: Oct. 13, 2020

 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many traditional holiday celebrations have looked different this year. Now as the weather cools and kids start thinking about cute (or spooky) costumes, trick-or-treating, haunted houses and hayrack rides, parents have started asking: “Will Halloween be canceled? What’s safe and what isn’t?”

With all of the uncertainty and changes COVID-19 has brought to our lives, these are valid concerns. Here are some answers to common questions parents have when navigating Halloween and fall activities in light of the pandemic.

 

Is it safe to participate in traditional trick-or-treating?

This question doesn’t have a straightforward answer. At this point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers traditional trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treating – with treats handed out as kids go door to door or car to car – to be high-risk activities for spreading viruses.

How high is your risk? The key lies in assessing your community’s COVID-19 positivity rate. Counties report their positivity rates based on a seven-day average of new cases. If you live in a county that has medium or high levels of COVID-19, it may be best to opt for a more socially distanced alternative to trick-or-treating. 

 

How do I find out my county’s positivity rate?

The website halloween2020.org has an easy-to-use map that helps you to find your county’s current risk level. In counties color coded orange or red (for having higher positivity rates), traditional trick-or-treating is discouraged. Trick-or-treating in counties colored green or yellow is considered safer, but you should still focus on safety measures.

Check back with the site as Halloween draws closer to see if your county’s risk level has changed. Your local health department may also weigh in as to whether traditional trick-or-treating should take place. 

Of course, there’s more to consider than just your area’s positivity rate. How comfortable are you as a parent? How mature are your kids? Will they be trick-or-treating only with family members? Have your neighbors taken steps to keep distance between trick-or-treaters? Can safety measures like masking, practicing proper hand hygiene and social distancing be taken? Weighing the answers to questions like these can help you make a smart decision.

 

If we can’t trick-or-treat, what are some alternatives? 

Luckily, there are plenty of fun alternatives to trick-or-treating. Consider these ideas:

Reverse trick-or-treating: Have your children wear their costumes in the driveway; neighbors can walk by and toss treats to them.

Make a candy fence: If your front yard has a fence or tree, consider tying or taping candy to it to allow children walking by to grab their own sweets.

Have a costume parade: Consider organizing a costume parade through your neighborhood. Onlookers can set up treat tables in front of their houses for participants. Invite the neighborhood dogs to dress up, too!

Drive-up trick-or-treating: Get the kids decked out in their costumes and hop in the car to deliver Halloween cheer to friends while offering and collecting treats at curbside.

Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing treats to give to others. If you’re heading out, remember the masks and hand sanitizer, and be sure to wash your hands as soon as you return home.  

 

Is it safe to visit pumpkin patches and orchards?

Yes. Most pumpkin patches and orchards have ample outdoor space, making it safer to attend. Remember to bring your mask, use hand sanitizer after touching common surfaces, keep your distance from others and take your time. You may want to avoid hayrides with people who aren’t from your household.

 

What about haunted houses?

This is more iffy. Going to an indoor haunted house where screaming people are crowded together carries a high level of risk. But an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest poses less risk when proper mask use and social distancing are observed. 

 

Can a Halloween mask be substituted for a cloth mask?

No. A plastic Halloween mask shouldn’t be considered a replacement for a double-layered cloth mask. Many retailers are offering cloth masks that coordinate with costumes or masks with Halloween-themed designs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages mask wearing in all children over age 2. It’s best to wear a mask whenever you’re within 6 feet of someone who isn’t part of our household. 

 

We are sick or awaiting test results on Halloween. How can we still have fun at home?

There’s still plenty of fun to be had if you get a little creative. A few ideas:

  • Set up a scavenger hunt at home with clues leading to small prizes or candy.

  • Have a family movie night with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Hocus Pocus” or other Halloween classics.
  • Set up candy stations around the house, or start a new tradition with a Halloween piñata.
  • Press play on a Halloween song playlist, then sing along and come up with new dance moves.

 

Balancing safety and fun

More than ever, parents are performing a balancing act of letting their kids be kids while being as safe as possible. Trying to keep track of which activities carry the most risk can quickly become overwhelming and confusing. The CDC has broken down the risk level of common Halloween activities here, but the themes remain the same: Wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, and avoid crowds and close contact with people outside your household.

If an activity seems unsafe or a little too risky, it’s OK to pass and find a more comfortable alternative. You’ve got a lot to think about as a parent, but you aren’t in this alone. Don’t hesitate to contact your Methodist Physicians Clinic primary care provider if you have questions about what’s best for your children’s health.

 

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Natalie Fleming

About the Author:

Dr. Natalie Fleming, a pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency, is humbled to serve as a reliable and compassionate resource for patients and their families.

“Parents are trusting me to care for their tiny little person who can’t speak to us but clearly has needs and an opinion. It’s my job to help translate that for families.”

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