Halloween is a favorite fall celebration in the United States and elsewhere in the world. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic poses some challenges for enthusiasts of this holiday. How can you have fun and still stay safe this Halloween?
Halloween is the time of the year when many fall enthusiasts drink pumpkin spice lattes, watch favorite horror flicks, and go trick-or-treating. Every year, people around the U.S. and the world throw costume parties to celebrate this holiday, taking the opportunity to spend some quality time with friends and family.
This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has made celebrating Halloween more complicated, as social gatherings can facilitate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
Despite this, some data suggest that many people in the U.S. have not let the pandemic deter them from their yearly Halloween preparations.
According to a Statista projection from September 2021, planned nationwide expenses for Halloween costumes amount to $3.3 billion. Estimates also indicate another $3.2 billion on Halloween decorations and $3 billion on candy.
So how can people stay safe while still enjoying this favorite fall holiday? In this Special Feature, we look at some best practices and offer tips for health, safety, and fun.
We have based our suggestions on official guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Handling and offering treats
Trick-or-treating and costume parties may be the best-loved Halloween activities, but they typically involve close contact with many people from different households. This can facilitate the transmission of the coronavirus.
For example, if someone who has unknowingly contracted SARS-CoV and has not experienced any symptoms engages in regular social activities, they might be putting others at risk.
The first and most important step to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated, and the CDC advises everyone who is able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to do so.
The best way to stay safe this Halloween is to avoid contact with people from other households, which might mean avoiding trick-or-treating and attending parties with individuals you do not share a living space with.
However, there are some ways people who want to make the most of this fall festivity can mitigate the risks.
If children go treat-or-tricking, they must avoid coming into direct contact with other treat-or-trickers or with any adults offering them treats.
They must also try to keep at least 6 feet away from other children and adults who do not live with them and carry hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content to use frequently.
Adults may want to supervise children as they use hand sanitizer and use it frequently themselves.
Additionally, always wash hands before and after handling any treats or treat bags destined for children from other households.
Children must also wash their hands thoroughly before they eat any candy received while treat-or-tricking.
Costumes and face coverings
One of the most important aspects of Halloween is, of course, wearing costumes.
Both adults and children may want to incorporate a face covering — covering the nose and mouth — into their outfit during any treat-or-tricking activities or any other activities where they might encounter people who do not form part of their household, particularly in areas where the risk of viral transmission remains high.
Healthline’s former chief medical officer, Dr. Hanh Le, advises that: “For this Halloween, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, costumes that have a mask that covers the mouth and nose area are likely the safest, and costumes that are either disposable or washable will most likely decrease your risk of contamination in the future.”
However, a regular costume mask may not provide the necessary protection against the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, so it is best to follow CDC guidelines on choosing an appropriate mask.
You may also want to avoid wearing a cloth face covering under a costume mask, because it could get in the way of breathing freely.
Organizing or attending festivities
The safest way to celebrate this Halloween is with people from your own household.
Pumpkin carving, wearing fun costumes, and participating in traditional Halloween games can be just as fun in smaller, more intimate circles as they are in larger social gatherings.
However, for those choosing to celebrate with individuals outside their households, here is some advice on staying safe and minimizing the risk of transmitting the virus.
According to medical experts, one way of minimizing transmission during a social gathering is by holding it in an outdoor space.
Dr. Hanh Le explains why:
“When organizing Halloween get-togethers, it is advisable to plan them outdoors if possible, because [spacing] people out in an open outdoor setting is the best way to prevent person-to-person transmission. Gathering a lot of people together in small confined spaces — especially if it’s loud and people [need] to lean in to hear each other — is a recipe for disaster for widespread [SARS-CoV-2] transmission among all your guests.”
Additionally, make sure to ventilate any indoor spaces used during a holiday gathering.
Hosts who wish to organize a get-together should limit the number of guests and ensure that everyone is familiar with and willing to follow current safety guidelines.
Some hosts may choose to provide disposable face masks, hand sanitizer, and tissues to their guests if they cannot bring their own.
For extra safety, you may want to place tables and chairs to allow for physical distancing between guests from different households. When it comes to cutlery, plates, and drinking cups, using disposable ones may be the safest option.
Providing individual sachets or pots of sauce, condiments, and salad dressings is also safer than passing around one container that everyone will handle.
Some hosts may suggest that guests bring their own food and drink to avoid sharing with others. Where this is not possible, limit contact with shared items or surfaces.
If people from different households cannot keep at least 6 feet apart from others, they should wear face coverings.
Hosts and guests alike must remember to wash their hands thoroughly before handling shared items or serving or eating food.
Finally, and most importantly, if you feel unwell or think you may have had exposure to a virus, please avoid all social gatherings to keep your friends and family safe.