Family, Kids & Relationships

Safe Ways To Celebrate Halloween Based on Your Local Coronavirus Risk

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Families across the country are wondering: Is it safe to do Halloween this year? The answer depends on two main factors: how high the community spread of Covid-19 is in your area, and what type of Halloween activities you are planning.

The CDC has warned that several traditional Halloween activities are considered high-risk for Covid-19 spread. The riskiest plans include attending a crowded indoor costume party, going to an indoor haunted house, and participating in traditional trick-or-treating where people are handing out treats directly to children.

So here’s a guide to some alternative Halloween ideas that’ll keep your family and community safer while having some spooky fun. Please use your judgment based on your own region’s Covid-19 transmission rate, as well as your own family’s risk and comfort levels.

Make Masks Part of the Fun

According to the CDC, a costume mask should not be assumed to be a suitable substitute for a protective cloth face mask. “A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face,” the CDC explains.

So, you could decorate or buy cloth face masks that go with your costumes, or even base your costumes on the masks that you have. This will make it easier to motivate the whole family to keep wearing their masks around neighbors and friends during Halloween weekend.

For those who like to get crafty around Halloween, consider decorating or painting a bunch of masks together as a family, or outdoors with a few close friends. Add whiskers, sequins, creepy teeth, fake blood, and more!

Keep in mind that while masks are a must, gloves aren’t as helpful. Jean Moorjani, M.D., a pediatrician in Orlando, Florida, explained why to PopSugar: “If they’re not washing or changing their gloves, they’re just really moving germs around. It’s not recommended in this setting.” Instead, simply wash or sanitize hands before and after handling candy.

Show Off Those Costumes…at a Distance

You might not be doing regular trick-or-treating or heading to a costume party, but there are still ways to get use out of your family’s costumes and custom masks—while social distancing. Some ideas include:

  • Organizing a costume parade with a few neighbors where families stay more than six feet apart from each other. 
  • Having a Zoom costume party with your family or school group.
  • Wearing the costumes on a family walk, to a pumpkin patch, to an outdoor haunted forest, or even while running errands throughout the week.

If you do attend or host a spooky gathering in person, keep in mind that the CDC states, “If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.”

Get Creative with Trick-or-Treating

The CDC notes that the safest Halloween activities are those that involve only household members—which means 2020 is the year to go all-in with family fun! You can focus your festivities around pumpkin carving, a spooky movie night, and decorating your house or yard. When it comes time for candy, you can hide treats for a fun Halloween scavenger hunt (which even works indoors, if you don’t have a yard or if the weather isn’t great). If you do search for treats inside, make it extra spooky by turning out the lights and giving your kids flashlights or glow sticks to help them hunt. Another option is to have parents or other family members stay in different rooms and let kids “trick or treat” by knocking on doors throughout the house.

For families who do feel comfortable with some form of trick-or-treating this year, there are ways to alter it to avoid close interactions with lots of different people. You could put out a table of candy at the edge of your property to share with neighbors, and then have your family hang out in the yard or front porch with costumes on to wave to the trick-or-treaters from a distance. Line up treats individually rather than putting them in one big bowl for everyone to dig through—or set up a candy chute! If you have a mail slot in your front door, you can decorate it as a “monster mouth” and deliver candy to trick-or-treaters from inside your house. Some families are rigging up a clothesline and clipping treat bags to it for kids to take.

Another fun idea is reverse drive-by trick-or-treating where “the kids stand in their front yards in their costumes with an adult present,” suggested Dr. Moorjani. “Then other adults in the neighborhood drive by and then toss candy onto the lawn.” Talk to your neighbors or local friends and see what you can organize together.

Finding the Right Balance of Spooky and Safe

The Halloween 2020 website makes it easy to find even more fun but socially distanced holiday activities. First, find your county on the map and determine whether you’re in a green, yellow, orange, or red zone. Then, based on your county’s risk level, go to the appropriate tab on the site for safe and creative Halloween ideas. The CDC has also provided a list of suggested low-risk and moderate-risk Halloween activities.

For Halloween (and every holiday!) in 2020, there are a lot of tricky decisions to be made. “The most important thing is that families decide together what level of risk they’re OK with this Halloween,” emphasized Dr. Moorjani.


Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.

For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.




Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.