Celebrate Halloween Safely During COVID-19

ThedaCare Pediatrician Offers Guidance for Families

October 19, 2020

DARBOY, Wis. – Halloween is just around the corner. With the Northeast and Central Wisconsin seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, health care officials are warning everyone to approach the upcoming holiday with caution.

“Halloween is a fun day for people of all ages,” said Abby Smolcich, MD, a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. “This year it is going to be especially important that everyone follow the recommendations for avoiding COVID-19. That will mean getting creative in how we celebrate this spooky holiday.”

She reminded everyone of the safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Avoid large gatherings, especially indoors
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Avoid handshakes, hugs and kisses
  • Wash hands often with soap and water
  • Clean and disinfect common household surfaces
  • Avoid people who are sick, stay away from others if you are sick

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services consider traditional trick-or-treating to be a high-risk activity and generally discourage it, but add this to the message “…state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules, regulations and recommendations should apply.” 

“In other words, follow local health department recommendations,” said Dr. Smolcich. “They have the latest information on virus activity in your area.”

Dr. Smolcich agrees with the recommendations to avoid traditional trick or treating.

“With the current level of COVID-19 activity in our area, it’s not advised to have kids going door-to-door and having someone hand out candy or other treats,” she said. “We’ve been doing a great job this year finding other alternatives to traditional holidays and activities, let’s do the same with Halloween.”  

She added that trunk or treating – the practice of parking cars in an area and having kids pick up bags of candy out of the trunks of cars – probably isn’t a good idea either.

Instead, Dr. Smolcich suggests a safer option would be to place candy in individual plastic bags and leave the bags on the doorstep or on a table on the sidewalk for children to pick up individually. She adds whoever is making the packages should wash their hands thoroughly before doing so. Then, once the children bring the candy home, all the bags should be emptied and everyone who touches the bags should wash their hands thoroughly.

If families choose to take part in traditional trick-or-treating, Dr. Smolcich recommends families only walk the neighborhood with friends with whom they are in regular contact or who are part of their “quarantine pod.”  With the current level of virus activity in our area, this isn’t a good time to be interacting with a new group of people.

She also warns that the masks that come with Halloween costumes do not replace the need to wear a regular facemask.

“The costume masks simply will not provide protection from the virus,” she said. “Wearing a facemask – surgical or cloth – under a costume mask could make it difficult for children to breathe. My suggestion would be that kids not wear their costume mask but rather decorate a cloth mask to coordinate with their costume. That will be much safer for everyone, and it could be a fun activity to engage in with kids.”

The CDC also offered an alternative list of Halloween activities:     

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household and create an outside display.
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, seated at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.
  • Do a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for in local yards, while wearing masks and social distancing.
  • Have an indoor scavenger hunt with family members.
  • Have an online virtual Halloween costume contest with friends and family.
  • Have an outdoor costume parade, maintaining social distancing.
  • Have a Halloween movie night with people with whom you live.

Other Halloween activity ideas found online include:

  • Have a Halloween piñata instead of traditional trick or treating.
  • Have a family Halloween-themed dinner, with everyone wearing a costume and staying in character during the meal.
  • Play a game of Halloween Bingo.
  • Visit a virtual Escape Room online.
  • Have an online movie with friends, including group chats.

Dr. Smolcich also said people should avoid costume parties, visiting haunted houses, going on hayrides or any activity where people congregate closely together.

“There’s too much opportunity for people to be complacent about mask wearing and social distancing in these situations,” she said. “Again, let’s take part in lower risk activities that can be safe and fun alternatives to Halloween.”