No Trick-or-Treating or Screaming This Halloween, CDC Says

Both are risky activities that could transmit the coronavirus.

children trick or treat in New York City
Children trick or treat in Brooklyn, NYC.

J. Countess / Getty Images


Halloween is going to look different this year. For the first time ever, I won't be ranting about how parents should stop being so paranoid and let their kids enjoy the independence that this holiday offers. Alas, due to the pandemic, parents would be wise to keep their kids close to home. The idea of going door to door, getting caught up in a line of waiting children, and accepting candy bars that have been handled by strangers has never been less appealing.

Now there are official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to avoid traditional trick-or-treating. It's considered a high-risk activity, along with attending crowded costume parties, indoor haunted houses, going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not part of your family, and traveling to rural fall festivals outside of your usual region. 

Moderately-risky activities, according to the CDC, include participating in one-way trick-or-treating, where candy is set out for collection in pre-packed bags, or joining a socially-distanced costume parade. An outdoor costume party where protective masks are used and guests can stay six feet apart is another moderate risk, as is an outdoor Halloween movie night. But regardless of the event, the CDC insists it's important not to spook kids so much that they start screaming:

"If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus."

The CDC is clear that Halloween masks do not replace cloth face masks. "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." Nor is it smart to use a protective mask beneath a Halloween costume mask because this is can make it hard to breathe. A better approach is to "consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask."

So which activities are low-risk? Not many, I'm afraid to report. Carving pumpkins with family members, watching a spooky movie at home, decorating the house, having a virtual costume contest, and walking through the neighborhood while doing a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt is about the extent of the CDC's acceptable activities. 

None of those low-risk activities are going to fly with my brood of Halloween-crazed youngsters, other than the pumpkin-carving, so I've been brainstorming about how to make the holiday special this year. I might do a backyard candy hunt, similar to an Easter egg hunt, but using a mix of the treats they'd normally receive while trick-or-treating. We'll likely have a campfire in the yard and make homemade doughnuts to share outdoors with a small number of friends within our social bubble. 

Because Halloween falls on a Saturday, we might go on an afternoon hike to a spot in the forest called Ghost Ridge, which is decorated year-round with creepy, ghoulish, and gory Halloween decor. Keep in mind that there'll be a full moon on the 31st this year, so assuming the sky is clear, any time spent outside will add to the seasonal thrill.

Much of Halloween's appeal lies in the lead-up to the night, so encourage your kids to spend time designing and making costumes that they can wear during the day (and possibly to school the day before). At the very least you can take a picture to remember this Halloween Like No Others.