No! The kids’ Halloween is not ruined. Like most things, Halloween is going to be different, but with a little creativity, we CAN have a safe version of trick-or-treat. Fortunately, most Halloween traditions in the U.S. are compatible with COVID harm reduction basics: wear a mask, keep it outdoors, and avoid crowds.
Some parts of trick-or-treat will take a bit of modification, most especially: handling the candy and keeping our distance. Here are some specific tips to get ready for trick-or-treat.
Get your flu shot.
What in the actual does the flu shot have to do with trick-or-treat?? Flu season starts right around the same time as Halloween, and it’s *also* really important that you not get the flu this year. Influenza is the most serious infectious disease that the United States faces in normal years, landing tens of thousands of people in the hospital. Since its symptoms are similar to COVID, the confluence of flu season and COVID is going to be one hot infectious mess. It’s more important than ever to not be that guy who gets flu and lands in the ICU this year.
If you are handing out candy:
Your goals are keep your distance from the children, make it hard for kids to form bunches at your door, and avoid handling the treats.
At a minimum, 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 outside, being outside will reduce doorbell-touching and bunching of treat-seekers at your doorstep. Don’t let kids choose their own candy--this really slows them down, creating bunches of waiting kids we often see at Halloween. If you can’t do these minimum safety precautions, turn off your porch lights and sit it out this year.
There are lots of ways to get creative with the idea of tossing candy. Here are a few ideas for no-contact outdoor candy delivery: dress as a detective, create a stoop “crime scene” and tape it off with caution tape, then toss candy out from within your safe zone. Build a candy delivery chute from PVC pipe and sit in a 2nd-story window, delivering precise doses of candy to the children below. Dress as a medieval knight and create a small candy-catapult. Personally, I am going to build a parade float in my front yard, dress as a pageant queen, and throw candy off of the float. Tossing treats will mean that kids need to be able to find it easily--so be sure your lighting is good.
Coordinate with your neighbors if you can! Signs signifying “no-contact” candy delivery homes may help everyone feel more safe.
Choose costumes with masks that cover your mouth and nose. Adults too. Expert tip: be sure to test-drive the costume before the big night. Bulky masks that cover kids’ whole face (especially around the eyes) have a tendency to be removed. Take a standard, comfortable nose-mouth face mask along in case the costume mask comes off.
Keep your group small and within your existing bubble. Do not let kids bunch up as you roam the neighborhood or form crowds waiting to get to a door.
Keep your distance from those handing out candy. Encourage your neighbors to coordinate and find safer ways to hand out their candy using tongs, grabbers, or candy-tossing systems.
If someone is handing out candy without a mask on, there’s a big crowd waiting at a door, or you just don’t feel safe for some reason--just skip the house and move on!
Don’t eat candy on the road. This significantly increases the likelihood of spit and snot ending up on your kids’ hands, which can lead to germs spreading. Wash your hands when you get home. If you feel extra cautious, you could put your loot in quarantine for a couple of days before consuming.
And finally, Be sure to tell your kids what the expectations are this year in advance, so that they know what they need to do.
Of course, whether trick-or-treat is safe for you and your family--like everything else--is an individual risk calculation. There’s no way to make it 100% safe, but since trick-or-treat happens outdoors, mostly in family pods, and with masks on already--we think we can pull it off. That said, if you don't feel safe, sit it out.
Take precautions and have a safe Halloween!