Consider this a little support to help you choose the right Halloween activities for you and your family.

By Lauren Phillips
September 21, 2020
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Halloween—like every other part of this year—is sure to look different in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic still hanging over the United States. Sure, it stills falls on October 31, but the things you plan to do on Halloween are almost sure to change, especially as we get closer to the spookiest day of the year. (Fortunately, Halloween movies on Netflix are always there to keep you occupied.)

Some areas are already announcing (and then walking back, in certain cases) bans on trick-or-treating this year. Other Halloween activities, such as costume parties or parades of elaborate and easy Halloween costumes, may happen as usual if they align with group gathering size limits outlined by the CDC and local authorities. Otherwise, deciding what’s safe, what’s allowed, and what you feel comfortable doing this Halloween will likely be a personal decision each household or family needs to make on its own.

Unfortunately, official guidelines aren’t always as clear as you may like and conditions can shift rapidly, so making the right decisions for you and your family surrounding Halloween and trick-or-treating during COVID can feel impossible. In the interest of helping families across the U.S. make smart Halloween decisions, the Halloween & Costume Association has released new tools and resources to help everyone celebrate Halloween safely. These resources include new Halloween Safely Guidelines—developed in alignment with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines—and a COVID risk map from the Harvard Global Health Institute and Brown School of Public Health, all viewable at Halloween2020.org. Note: Since publication, the CDC published its guidelines on celebrating Halloween and other fall holidays. Read these official guidelines and recommendations before making any decisions about your Halloween or trick-or-treating plans.

The new Halloween Safely Guidelines recommend a few steps to judge safety. First, find your county on the risk level map to see current risk levels in your area. The map tracks the seven-day moving average of daily new cases and daily new cases per 100,000 people and uses these numbers to determine risk level. (The higher the number of daily new cases, the higher the risk.) Counties are then color-coded by risk level, with green counties having the lowest level of risk, then yellow, then orange, and then red having the highest.

Once you’ve seen the level of risk in your county (and surrounding counties), you can pick appropriate activities. Halloween2020.org divides its suggested activities by color: People in green zones may be able to celebrate Halloween almost as usual, as long as local restrictions, personal comfort, and personal levels of risk allow it. (High-risk individuals or families with members who are high-risk should, of course, take the greatest precautions.) People in red zones, on the other end of the spectrum, should stick to small, outdoor gatherings of family, close friends, or pods only or virtual celebrations.

Beyond these recommendations, Halloween2020.org offers best practices for trick-or-treating 2020, including going around only with people you live with, wearing masks, marking six-feet distances in front of your home, and using a table or counter to separate people handing out candy from trick-or-treaters. It even offers a safe house pledge, where homeowners can pledge that they have reviewed best practices for handing out candy (as listed on the Halloween2020.org site) and are following them all to keep themselves and trick-or-treaters safe. Pledge-takers can then print a safe house certificate to hang on their front door or window to tell visitors that they are taking steps to keep everyone safe.

Of course, these guidelines aren’t foolproof, and doing anything during this pandemic comes with some level of risk—but hopefully taking smart steps to protect yourself and others can help give everyone a little peace of mind while they do the activities they feel comfortable with this Halloween.

If you hope to celebrate Halloween in some small way this October 31, read about best practices on Halloween2020.org, check the risk level in your area, and decide what safe activities you’re comfortable with. (Even if you’re in a green zone, if you’re not comfortable handing out candy or going trick-or-treating this year, you absolutely do not have to. Instead, use smart Halloween quotes in a sign in your yard or a post on your neighborhood’s social platform of choice to tell others you won’t be participating this year.) Be sure to check on the risk level in your area often as you finalize your plans—as we learned back in March, things can change very, very quickly, so plan to adapt if and when conditions change in your area. With careful preparation on all sides, trick-or-treating 2020 can still be an activity to remember.