Trick-or-treating in the age of COVID-19: How to stay safe this Halloween

Media Credit: Sarah Roach | Editor in Chief

Try to work your mask and other COVID-19 precautions into your costume this Halloween to stay safe and have fun.

As long as you take the necessary precautions, you can still participate in trick-or-treating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are some common-sense practices, like packing candy in individual bags and providing hand sanitizers to trick-or-treaters, to minimize contact this Halloween. Here are some tips for ensuring you can participate in trick-or-treating while abiding by public health guidelines.

Preparing and distributing candy

Instead of letting every trick-or-treater in the neighborhood stick their hands in a communal bowl of candy, prepare some small bags of candy for each person to take upon visiting your house. You can keep all of the bags on a table in front of your house and instruct kids asking for candy to take one bag of goodies.

Wearing gloves and a mask and using a tong while handing out candy are also smart ways to reduce contact with trick-or-treaters. Consider dressing up as a mad scientist or a zombie-turned lunch lady so your safety wear and utensils double as your costume.

Trick-or-treating

Before setting out into the neighborhood on Halloween night, assess your degree of risk to the virus by skimming through the COVID Risk Levels Dashboard made by the Brown University School of Public Health. The dashboard tells you the COVID-19 risk levels in your town.

Amanda Castel, a professor of epidemiology at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, said if you choose to trick or treat with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, make sure you consistently wear masks, keep six feet apart and avoid sharing utensils and candy.

Castel suggested families find “imaginative” ways to distribute candy, like building a contraption coined the candy chute, an at least six-foot tube that allows you to slide candy to trick-or-treaters from a distance. One father from Cincinnati has been creating these homemade candy chutes using a long cardboard tube and some festive duct tape.

Switch up your location

If you want to avoid overcrowding the doorway of each house you visit, try organizing a small get-together outside in a public area to allow for plenty of room for trick-or-treaters to pick up candy while they keep at a distance in an open space.

Michael Martineau, a sophomore living in Pennsylvania, said he will celebrate Halloween by trick-or-treating with his brother at a Miracle League field just north of Allentown, Pennsylvania. He said trick-or-treaters and their families go from booth to booth to receive candy from local high school sports teams, and people are adapting to the yearly tradition by signing up for a time slot to avoid overcrowding.

Hand sanitizing

Hand sanitizer is a must for both trick-or-treaters and people handing out candy. Although the risk of transmission through touching contaminated surfaces is found to be lower than directly through respiratory droplets, coming into contact with either is still a risk. Castel said both trick-or-treaters and hosts should consider having hand sanitizer at the ready throughout the night. It is also a good idea to provide trick-or-treaters with hand sanitizer before allowing them to reach into any sort of candy bowl.

Depending on how trick-or-treaters are receiving their goodies, Castel, the public health school professor, said it’s important to clean your hands as “frequently as possible,” especially when you’re about to eat candy that came from dozens of different homes.

Alternative activities

For those who would prefer to opt out of the traditional trick-or-treating this Halloween season, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to learn about the risks of different Halloween activities. Castel recommended several alternative celebratory activities, like watching a scary movie with your family or organizing an outdoor, socially-distanced movie night with a small group of people.

“We have already had to change the way in which we interact with family and friends, how we celebrated summer holidays and as we move into the fall and winter months and as the pandemic continues, we will have to continue to be flexible, adjust and think about alternative and safe ways to celebrate while still creating new memories,” Castel said.

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