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Reimagining Halloween During a Pandemic


October 30, 2020
Categories: Health

Perhaps you are trick or treating at home this year. Or maybe you’ve relocated, changing the city view from your New York condo for a fall foliage landscape at your second home in New England.

Make sure you know the coronavirus protocols for both homes. You don’t want your Halloween to turn into a Quarantine-o-ween.

Travel Safe

If you are trick or treating at home, you are aware of the coronavirus protocols in your town.

If you’re traveling, perhaps from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Lake Tahoe or New York City or Philadelphia to the Poconos for a seasonal rental, check for any coronavirus-related restrictions before you get on the road.

Research out-of-state hot spots on your route, health care options and coronavirus testing facilities at your destination. Most quarantines for state-to-state travel range from seven to 10 days, so you’ll want to factor quarantine time before any Halloween plans.

You may not have immediate access to health care services at a long-stay rental and should be prepared with a Global Rescue travel services membership or access to telehealth services.

Planning for the Holidays

Easter didn’t get cancelled this April, despite coronavirus restrictions. Local communities reimagined it with the Easter Bunny making deliveries doorstep to doorstep as children waved happily, and safely, from their living room windows. Fourth of July fireworks didn’t fare as well— 80% of community fireworks displays were cancelled for fear of social distancing nightmares, according to The New York Times — but locals rallied and offered displays viewable from home.

Halloween will undergo a similar transformation as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Families are already flooding social media with creative ideas and town and city officials are offering guidelines based on national CDC recommendations.

The goal is to provide safer alternatives to super spreading events. Many harvest fairs or pumpkin festivals have been cancelled, such as the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire. Instead of blocking off downtown to feature a world record number of lit jack-o-lanterns, festival organizers are asking residents to display jack-o-lanterns in front of homes and businesses instead.

Californians sounded the alarm when the Los Angeles Department of Public Health banned trick or treating, then later revised their statement. The city of Antigo in Wisconsin, population 7,819, did cancel trick or treating, but replaced it with a drive-in movie event and socially distanced costume contest. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment took the opportunity to remind residents of the standing COVID-19 guidelines for holidays and celebrations: wear masks, gather in groups of 10 or less; gather outside; and stay six feet apart.

Towns like Salem, Massachusetts and Sleepy Hollow, New York — who rely on tourism dollars every Halloween — have cancelled events or require advance tickets to keep attendance low.

Evaluate The Risks

After seven months of lockdown, many families are hoping Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year, will add some joy to an uncertain time. The Harris Poll, on behalf of National Confectioners Association, found 74% of young parents say Halloween is more important than ever this year.

A Party City survey shows 96% of parents plan to celebrate Halloween in 2020, with 70% seeking alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating.

“It is an outdoor event. And it’s an event where a lot of masks are already worn," said Michelle Buck, Hershey’s chief executive on the company’s second-quarter earnings call in July. “There’s no evidence of the virus being passed through packaging or food, so we feel pretty good based on what we’re seeing so far from consumer feedback.” 

As the date gets closer, trick-or-treating will likely be a community- or state-based judgment call. It will also be up to parents, who may decide a child with a complex medical history or compromised immune system should skip the festivities. If there is any question of illness, speak with a health care professional before any Halloween event or activity. Parents need to worry about the health and safety of their children as well as the people handing out the candy.

Other health and safety suggestions:

  • Before you go to a Halloween event, consider the risks and whether you feel comfortable taking them. Good Housekeeping suggests reviewing CDC transmission risk categories for events: virtual only gatherings have the lowest risk and large, in-person events with people traveling to attend are the highest risk.
  • Ask the event (or event organizer) what COVID-19 safety measures will be in place.
  • Wear a mask while outside of your home. Many costumes include masks but, if they don’t, find a way to add one to the ensemble. Real Simple recommends doubling up on masks, because the ones included with a costume aren’t designed to deflect droplets.
  • Practice social distancing with your kids before the event. Encourage them to wait their turn, keep toys and costumes away from others, and use hand sanitizer after any contact.
  • Stay with household members as much as possible. Staying in your own community, neighborhood or family “bubble” will reduce the risk of spread.
  • Limit your number of trick-or-treat visits, and stick to visiting households of people you know and trust.
  • Wait until you get home to enjoy your candy. That way you can remove your costume and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water before eating.

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