5 Ways to Have a Safe Halloween During COVID-19

Try these modifications to help keep the Halloween spirit alive.

5:00 AM

Author | Rachel Zeichman

Halloween trick or treat COVID

Leaves are changing colors and there is a crisp chill in the air. The onset of fall means Halloween is around the corner, and whether you have children in your household or simply enjoy passing out candy, the continued presence of the coronavirus has many wondering – is Halloween cancelled this year?

For the past seven months, navigating the pandemic has you programmed to wash your hands more than ever before, keep 6-feet apart, cover your face and nose, and even wipe down everyday items with disinfecting wipes.

LISTEN UP: Add the new Michigan Medicine News Break to your Alexa-enabled device, or subscribe to our daily updates on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher

It's easy to experience pandemic fatigue with desperation for normalcy, but, tired or not, we are still in a pandemic. The good news? It doesn't mean you can't have fun!

"Halloween is not cancelled," confirms Kristen Padilla, D.O., pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. "Everyone can still celebrate. We just have a new consideration to think about – coronavirus."

Similar to Halloween safety measures you would take into account any other year, such as crossing the street safely or wearing reflective materials in the dark, you now have additional risks to consider.

Padilla goes on to say, "The biggest concern this Halloween is avoiding crowds and gatherings of people outside your household or pod."

Halloween is not cancelled, confirms Kristen Padilla, D.O., pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Everyone can still celebrate. We just have a new consideration to think about – coronavirus.
Kristen Padilla, D.O.

Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Halloween guidelines and still bring the joy of the holiday to your family or neighborhood.

Check out these five pediatrician-approved ways to safely celebrate Halloween in 2020.

  1. Pumpkin carving or decorating with your household or small intimate group.

Start with a trip to your local pumpkin patch. This can still be done safely since many are outdoors with lots of space. Don't forget to wear a mask since you'll be around other people.

Then turn your pumpkin carving, or decorating, into the main event. Whether you enjoy with your immediate household or invite a small number of trusted guests to join you, this is a great activity that you can easily apply safety measures to.

"Pumpkin carving is usually done outside anyway. Using a couple tables and inviting a small intimate group from your pod to come over to carve pumpkins is a safe thing to do while keeping people separate," notes Padilla.

Just remember, masks that cover your mouth and nose and social distancing are still important, and it's best to keep it outdoors and bring your own carving tools to avoid touching the same items. Grab some cider and doughnuts to top off the event and don't forget the hand sanitizer!

  1. Start a Halloween scavenger hunt around your neighborhood.

Early on in the pandemic, some neighborhoods had teddy bear hunts or searched for leprechauns on St. Patrick's Day. For Halloween, spooky decor can be just as fun to walk around looking at and a great way to enjoy being outside before it gets too cold out.

"If your neighborhood is one that gets into Halloween, you can have decorations or a pumpkin contest," adds Padilla. "There are lots of ways to get the neighborhood involved."

If you don't have the budget to go all out on decorations, you can make Halloween-themed pictures for your windows – perhaps a friendly pumpkin hunt if your neighborhood has younger-aged children.

Then expand your outdoor fun by making your own scavenger hunt to check off all the ghostly ghouls you find as you walk around the streets. If you need a little inspiration, check out these free printable Halloween scavenger hunt sheets on Pinterest.

  1. Replace traditional trick-or-treating with a candy hunt in or around your house.

For a lot of kids, candy is the most important thing with dressing up coming in a close second. You can still enjoy both safely in or around your home.

"Similar to an Easter egg hunt, order Halloween-themed eggs to hide candy in," suggests Padilla.

It's as easy as a "Halloween egg hunt" search on Amazon and it saves you the risk of going door-to-door. This is a good option for families who are more cautious or have younger children that aren't used to going door-to-door anyway.

According to the CDC, even participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard) poses a moderate risk, and traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is labeled a higher risk activity. 

If you choose to participate in trick-or-treating, "consider keeping a distribution table outside that you leave individually wrapped goodie bags on so you can limit your contact with others," suggests Padilla. "Sit outside at least 6 feet away from the table and wear a cloth or surgical face mask that covers your nose and mouth." She adds, "Pre-packaged treats set out are best. Avoid the candy bowl and make sure to have hand sanitizer on hand."

  1. Hold a socially-distanced neighborhood parade.

If you're fortunate enough to live on a tight-knit street, consider organizing a socially-distanced neighborhood parade. One of the nice things about Halloween falling on a Saturday is you can arrange for something like this before standard trick-or-treat hours begin.

If the group agrees to candy handouts, encourage your neighbors to follow proper safety protocols leaving single treat bags on a table close to the sidewalk. Onlookers can stand at a distance and wave to the parade.

A word of caution – keep the numbers down. "You can do a lot of alternative things, but even those become unsafe if they become large events," warns Padilla.

When it comes to dressing up in costume, remember that Halloween costume masks do not protect from the spread of disease. Most costume masks focus on fitting appropriately to breathe out of it with most having an opening around the mouth.

"For this year, it's not recommended to choose a costume that includes a head or face mask," notes Padilla. "It's best to wear a cloth or surgical mask that covers your nose and mouth and, by keeping your head uncovered, it also allows better visibility to ensure proper face mask use."

You may also consider kid-friendly face masks that could be incorporated into a costume, such as a lion's snout or a witch's crooked nose.

  1. Have a virtual or indoor backup plan.

Weather can be unpredictable. If it's too cold or it starts to rain, "avoid congregating inside with other groups of people," cautions Padilla. "We have good, solid guidelines warning against indoor gatherings based on the increased risk."

If you find yourself inside, anything virtual is safe. Halloween costumes don't have to go to waste if you organize a virtual costume contest with friends – and don't forget to dress your pets! Come up with different categories – like funniest costume or scariest costume – so everyone can be a winner.

There is plenty of other indoor fun to be had too. Several of the previous suggestions can be done inside, such as the pumpkin carving (with lots of newspaper laid out) or the candy hunt. You can also make Halloween-themed snacks, do a Halloween craft, share scary stories and top the night off with your favorite Halloween movie.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter 

Looking for more ideas? The Halloween & Costume Association is powering halloween2020.org where you can access the COVID risk level in your community based on data provided by the Harvard Global Health Institute. Halloween activities in line with CDC guidelines are then suggested according to the color-coded zone you live in. For those that do choose to participate in trick-or-treating, the site is also encouraging households to sign the safe house pledge with a printable certificate to place in your window – or on your distribution table – verifying you're a fun and safe house.

Happy haunting!

More Articles About: Children's Health CS Mott Children's Hospital Covid-19 Community Health Wellness and Prevention Safety Hospitals & Centers
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of health care news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories child in yellow shirt sitting looking down on arm with blue mask on and nurse with globes putting band-aid on
Health Lab
5 ways to prepare your child for the COVID vaccine
Now that kids are eligible to get the COVID vaccine, it’s important to prepare them for what comes next, and to help manage fear of needles. Use these five expert tips to get your child ready to get their shot.
woman sitting at table in stripe shirt stressed seeming white background window
Health Lab
An unequal toll of financial stress
Inflation rates may have cooled off recently, but a poll shows many older adults are experiencing financial stress – especially those who say they’re in fair or poor physical health or mental health
sunscreen blue people outside
Health Lab
Sunscreen dispensers make skin cancer prevention easier
Medical students have worked to place dispensers at parks, pools and golf courses around Washtenaw County to give people easy access to sunscreen.
woman laying down and sheet over going into surgery
Health Lab
Older women more likely to receive heart surgery, die at low quality hospitals
Women over the age of 65 who require complex heart surgery are more likely than men to receive care at low quality hospitals — where they also die in greater numbers following the procedure, a Michigan Medicine study finds.
10 year old in wheelchair at hospital, also posing on physical therapy mats.
Health Lab
10-year-old works to regain independence after rare brain hemorrhage
A young girl works with physical therapists and other specialists in two unique clinics to regain strength again after a rare brain hemorrhage.
pink baby in floating cell with colorful brain purple spotted background
Health Lab
Uncovering the link between a common congenital viral infection and autism
Children who contracted a viral infection known as congenital cytomegalovirus in utero may be nearly two and half times more likely to be diagnosed with autism, a study suggests.