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Published on October 27, 2020

Safe ways to celebrate Halloween this year

COVID Halloween

Bobbing for apples is definitely out, and a lot of other favorite activities associated with Halloween are going to look a lot different this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidelines for celebrating Halloween during the coronavirus pandemic and many of the most popular traditions have been placed in the high-risk category. These include traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, trunk-or-treat events and indoor Halloween parties.

But that doesn’t mean the holiday has to be a complete bust, said pediatrician Sharon Daley, MD, at Seaside Pediatrics in West Yarmouth. She has been impressed with the way her young patients have adapted to the changes in their lives this year and she believes Halloween won’t be any exception.

“In some ways the kids have adapted better than the parents,” she said. “So, I think the idea is to use the CDC guidelines and still let the kids have fun but be a little bit creative and do something different this year.”

In addition to door-to-door trick-or-treating, trunk-or-treat events and parties, the other high-risk activities include:

  • Haunted houses where people will be screaming.
  • Hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not part of your household.
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community, if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.

“Halloween is on a weekend this year, so we have daylight on our side,” Dr. Daley said. “So, you could do an outdoor scavenger hunt, kind of like an Easter egg hunt, because we know outdoor events are safer than indoor events. Things like an outdoor costume parade or putting little gift bags with candy at the end of the driveway are also pretty safe.”

One of the other CDC recommendations that Dr. Daley pointed out is that traditional Halloween masks are not considered safety masks, and children should not wear both a safety mask and a Halloween mask because it could hinder breathing. Instead the recommendation is to wear a Halloween-themed safety mask.

“Overall, for the COVID prevention on Halloween, it’s just really common sense,” she said. “It’s what we are doing anyway. We’re keeping three to six feet apart from people, we’re wearing masks, we’re washing our hands frequently, we’re preferring outdoor activities rather than indoor activities and we’re avoiding groups.”

Other Safe Ways to Celebrate

Since the pandemic began some families have formed social “bubbles” with one or two other families who have similar risk aversion and rules. Having a backyard celebration with a small bubble of kids who have already been spending time together makes sense, she said. Getting together with a group of children who haven’t already been together does not.

Other safe backyard ideas for celebrating include carving or painting pumpkins, decorating holiday themes cookies or cupcakes, making Halloween gingerbread houses, and having an outdoor movie screening.

Some kids will be fine with the revised holiday plans, but others might have a hard time accepting the changes. If your child feels terribly disappointed about not trick-or-treating, Dr. Daley recommends that you acknowledge that it does really stink that they can’t do what they want this year.

“Don’t minimize their feelings but just empathize with them and say, ‘Let’s figure out if you can do something else that will be fun, even if it won’t be the same,’” she said.

The numbers are rising again in Massachusetts, and Boston had to revert back to all online schooling again last week because the positivity rate was greater than 5 percent. But so far, the Cape has not seen a similarly alarming rise and Dr. Daley doesn’t expect us to have one in the near future.

“On the Cape, I think we are a little bit more isolated and people have been pretty careful,” she said. “Everywhere I go, people are wearing masks, even on the bike trail. So, there should be ways for families to celebrate Halloween while still being careful. The kids can still have fun.”