Should I take my kids trick-or-treating during the COVID-19 pandemic?

As colder weather sets in and COVID-19 case numbers rise across the U.S., many parents are wondering if it’s safe to go trick-or-treating with their kids this Halloween. The short answer, according to the experts: yes—but only if you take key precautions to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Here, we’ve rounded up guidance from the CDC and other medical authorities on how you and your family can have a fun, safe spooky season in 2020, from trick-or-treating to pumpkin carving and beyond.

1. Assess your family’s COVID-19 risks

Before you decide to go trick-or-treating, even in a modified form, it’s best to consider any COVID-19 risks specific to your environment and your family. As Dr. Jon McGreevy of Phoenix Children’s Hospital tells the Washington Post, this could include the level of COVID-19 community spread in your area (check out this helpful map from the Harvard Global Health Institute) and the presence of health risks like obesity, diabetes, pulmonary conditions, and old age in your household.

Of course, if you or your children have symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not take part in in-person Halloween celebrations or hand out candy. Keep each other safe out there!

2. Limit contact while trick-or-treating

Every October 31st, waves of costumed children and adults pour into the streets in search of candy and good old-fashioned thrills. But this year, the face-to-face interaction inherent in traditional trick-or-treating could facilitate the spread of COVID-19, which is why it’s classified as a high-risk activity in the CDC’s holiday celebration guidelines.

While that sounds like a stark warning, it doesn’t mean you have to tell your kids they can’t go trick-or-treating at all this year! It just means that you have to take the proper precautions to keep your family safe. For one, you should avoid door-to-door trick-or-treating. Instead, the CDC recommends that individually wrapped candy be left out where trick-or-treaters can grab it while maintaining social distance. Don’t forget about the honor system! One piece of candy per person!

And the rest of the usual COVID-19 best practices apply: Wait to eat candy until you can wash your hands, wear a face covering (if a costume comes with an unsuitable mask, replace it with a proper mask), keep your group small, and carry hand sanitizer.

3. Keep your distance and stay outside

Trick-or-treating isn’t the only beloved reason to go out this time of year. Haunted houses, apple picking, costume contests, parades—the list goes on. How can you know which of these activities are safe for you and your family during a pandemic?

Dr. David Hirschwerk of the Northwell Health system tells the New York Times that there are themes to the CDC’s general COVID-19 guidelines we can remember: avoid crowds, stay outside as much as possible, and wear a mask.

That means no indoor haunted houses (or haunted house parties)—but orchards, pumpkin patches, and haunted forests (where you can keep your social distance outside) are fair game with the proper safety measures. Likewise, the risks of costume parties and parades can be mitigated if kept relatively small and held outside where attendees can stay six feet apart from each other.

4. Celebrate Halloween at home

Of course, spending time at home with your family is the safest way to celebrate Halloween this year. And just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t have special experiences together.

Classic Halloween traditions like decorating your apartment or house and carving pumpkins can help you get into the spirit of the season without going out. The CDC suggests also trying new low-risk activities with your kids like Halloween scavenger hunts or virtual costume contests. And you can always settle in together for a Halloween movie marathon — we can’t wait to rewatch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” (Pro-tip: a Charlie Brown special is a great option for any holiday.)

We hope you have a spooktacular October! Let us know what your family has planned for this Halloween and get connected with other parents @hellosawyer.