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CDC discouraging traditional Halloween trick-or-treating this year due to COVID-19

The federal agency says the activity considered 'high-risk' for the spreading of viruses.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance suggesting that people should avoid traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating for Halloween this year due to the pandemic.

The CDC says that in addition to traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, many traditional Halloween activities are what they have considered "high risk" for the spreading of viruses:

  • Having trunk-or-treat events where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors.
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming.
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not from your household.
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which may cloud your judgment and increase the possibility of risky behavior.
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

The CDC says other Halloween activities, can be considered of "moderate risk," but can be mitigated through proper preparation before or additional care following participation in the event.

They are saying that if you participate in any of these activities, you should exercise caution during and after the activity.

These include:

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating, where individually-wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard). Those who are preparing the bags should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds both before and after doing so, the CDC says.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart.
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.

    The CDC emphasizes that a Halloween mask is no substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used for protection unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the nose and mouth and does not leave gaps around the face.

    In addition, a costume mask should not be worn over a cloth mask because the combination may make it difficult to breathe. A Halloween-themed cloth mask would be a better substitute in that instance.

  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart. If screaming will likely occur, the agency says, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends,  with people spaced at least 6 feet apart. Once again, if screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus. Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

Finally, the CDC says they suggest "low risk" activities for people to participate in, which will not risk the spread of coronavirus and allow everyone to enjoy the holiday safely.

These lower-risk alternatives include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

About 80 percent of young parents say they can't imagine Halloween without trick or treating, according to the National Confectioners Association. Director of Communications, Lauren O’Toole Boland, said it's more important than ever to celebrate the holiday.

“Everything has been really upended this year. And everyone is searching for a little bit of joy this year. Halloween is one of those holidays that everyone can celebrate in their own way while still coming together," said O'Toole Boland.

NCA's president and CEO, John Downs says that CDC's guidance reinforces that Halloween is happening this year.

“There’s no question that Halloween will look different this year, and innovative approaches endorsed by CDC like outdoor trick-or-treating can bring a little fun to the fall," adds Downs.

CDC said their guidelines are meant to supplement, not replace any state or local laws, rules and regulations regarding holiday gatherings. 

When planning to host or attend any celebrations or gatherings, everyone is advised to consider the current COVID-19 levels in their own communities before deciding whether to participate.