A: Good news!! Traditional Halloween activities in the United States are pretty easy to adapt to a COVID world! With a few modifications, we can trick-or-treat, dress up, visit friends outdoors, and go to pumpkin patches safely. Just keep the invitation list to a minimum, wear a mask, and skip the indoor activities.
With Halloween coming up this weekend, we’re reprising this article authored by Dear Pandemic’s own Dr. Malia Jones to help you get ready for the holiday.
It’s the season for all things spooky, and you know what people in my line of work think is really scary? A COVID-19 superspreader at a crowded costume party! Boo!
Halloween is my favorite holiday. In years past, I have dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West, the worm from Labyrinth, Luna Girl from PJ Masks, and queen of the zombie prom (that’s me on the right, Halloween 2019). So I’m here with good news: Halloween is not canceled.
Like all things 2020, Halloween is going to have to be a little different this year. Fortunately, we now know that the largest risks are from sharing the same air as other people, especially indoors, and that avoiding crowds, wearing a mask over our noses and mouths, and taking the fun outdoors are good ways to stay safe. Lucky for us, most Halloween traditions in the U.S. are highly compatible with those COVID-19 harm reduction basics. All you have to do is take the party outdoors, put on your mask, and cut the invitation list down to just a few people.
With those guidelines, there are lots of ways to celebrate without adding to the list of COVID-19 cases in your community. Consider a walking party where guests parade down the street in costume, with plenty of space between groups. You could organize a reverse parade: The kids (and grown-ups, who am I kidding?) can show off their costumes from the sidewalk while the neighbors and grandparents drive by and toss candy.
With masks, distancing, and staying outdoors, you can visit a pumpkin patch or even have a few friends over to carve pumpkins. Go to a corn maze. Have a bonfire with a few good friends. If the weather is good, get ahold of a projector and have a backyard scary movie night with space between your chairs.
If the outdoors aren’t an option, host a virtual scary movie night with your BFFs using Netflix Party or virtual group play the murder hotel themed Jackbox game, Trivia Murder Party 2.
For neighborhood fun, have a neighborhood pumpkin-carving contest with voting and prizes. Create a photo-op Halloween scene on your stoop so families can stop by one at a time and make memories.
Avoid indoor parties! The world is scary enough this year. We don’t need real horror scenes. Please don’t do costume parties, or even have a few friends over to watch the game indoors. It’s just too risky, especailly given the state of COVID-19 in most of the US.
As for trick-or-treat, with a few adaptations it should be possible to have a safe & fun night. Your costume–kids and adults–should have a mask that covers your mouth and nose. It’s never been a better year to dress up as a surgeon, a mummy, or a superhero.
But really, any costume is compatible with a mask, from Hermione to Bob Ross. We all wear masks in 2020. If you have a Disney princess, break out the fabric glue and bedazzle that mask, princess-style. Surely there is a way to get Rapunzel’s highly versatile hair to serve as a face covering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a typical costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask–but as long it’s made of at least two layers of fabric that fits over your mouth and nose, it’s OK.
Be sure to test-drive the kids’ costumes before the big night because bulky masks that cover the whole face tend to end up in a coat pocket. Take a standard, comfortable nose-mouth mask along just in case.
Keep your trick-or-treating group small and keep your distance. Don’t bunch up with people outside your existing COVID-19 bubble, and keep your distance from the people handing out candy, too. I’ve seen some clever ideas for making no-contact treat collection part of the costume. Your little fisherman or butterfly catcher could easily carry a net with a long handle, for example.
No candy eating on the road. We don’t want to spread anything more than spooky fun, and having slobbery, sticky hands can undermine that goal. Definitely wash your hands when you get home, but there’s no need to wipe off every piece of candy individually. Surface transmission has not been found to be a common mode of COVID-19’s spread, so good hand hygiene should do the trick.
If you’re staying home to hand out candy, you need to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, hand out candy using tongs or a grabber, and stay outdoors while you do it. In addition to the better airflow, being outside will reduce doorbell-touching and queues of children at your doorstep.
If you can, make a one-way path for kids to approach your door, and don’t let kids choose their own; we don’t want them touching the treats, and anyway, it slows them down. The CDC suggests p putting together goodie bags on a grab-and-go table while you enjoy greeting neighbors from a safe distance. If you can’t do these minimum safety precautions, that’s OK—turn off your porch lights and sit it out this year.
I’d love to see neighborhoods banding together for contact-free trick-or-treat. If you want to let your neighbors know that you have a plan, find Dear Pandemic’s free printable yard sign.
You can also get more creative. I have one neighbor who has built a 10-foot candy chute from a length of PVC pipe to deliver treats from afar, and another who is perfecting their candy catapult. Personally, I am going to build a parade float in my front yard, dress as a pageant queen, and toss candy off of the float. Yes, seriously. I’m going as Miss Information.
If trick-or-treat seems too hard to manage (or has been canceled by your local authorities), do a Halloween scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, spotting items on your list from a distance. Or do a Halloween hunt within your own home, hiding treats for the kids to find in the style of an egg hunt.
Unfortunately, that packed, debauched costume party your ex-roommate throws every year is a hard no. Put it off for an extra big celebration next year.