young girl puts mask on a jack-o-lantern

Making The Most Of A COVID-19 Halloween

4 Tips for a Spooky (and Safe) Holiday

Halloween is just around the corner. But as Northeast and Central Wisconsin experience a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, health care officials are warning everyone to approach the upcoming holiday with caution. Wondering how you can still have a spooktacular celebration, without putting yourself or your family in harm’s way? This Halloween, a little creativity goes a long way.

1. If it doesn’t fit COVID-19 safety recommendations, skip it.

“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.”

Safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Practicing social distancing
  • Avoiding large gatherings, especially indoors
  • Wearing a mask in public
  • Avoiding handshakes, hugs and kisses
  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Cleaning and disinfecting common household surfaces
  • Avoiding people who are sick and staying away from others if you are sick

2. Avoid traditional trick or treating.

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.” 

“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 them 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.

3. Don’t skip the mask.

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.”

4. Embrace alternative Halloween activities.

Altering your plans doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the fun. Start a new tradition – and create some fun memories in the process – by thinking outside the box:

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household and display outside.
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.
  • Do scavenger hunt of Halloween-themed items 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 in your household.
  • Break open 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.”

For additional safe Halloween activity ideas, visit the CDC’s website.