Tricks for Treating the Kids to a Pandemic-Safe Halloween

10/26/20 News ,   CHI Health

Every Midwesterner has a memory of a Halloween that wasn’t. An early snow storm, subzero wind chill or a driving rain can occasionally upend trick-or-treating in this part of the country.

This year, with COVID-19 cases rising as we also go into flu season, the public is being asked to act responsibly to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus. The good news is you can plan ahead for a safer Halloween season and still treat the kids to fun.  

The trick is to remember the big three in all activities: wear a mask, social distance six feet from non-household members and wash/sanitize hands often. If you choose to trick or treat, follow these Centers for Disease Control guidelines:

  • Make the cloth mask part of your child’s costume.
  • Do not substitute a costume mask for a cloth mask.
  • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask as it can be hard to breathe.
  • Do not put a mask on children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing.

Those handing out treats should make these changes:

  • Wash hands before handling treats and always wear a mask.
  • Give treats outdoors and avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Set up a station with individually-bagged treats for kids to take.

If you opt to skip trick-or-treating, try adding some new activities to your spooky season. Some safe options include:

  • Hold a Halloween scavenger hunt. Hide treats in and around your house and hold a hunt for household members.
  • Host a Halloween movie night. Plan an outdoor movie night with friends masked and safely distanced or an indoor movie night with household members.
  • Decorate outside your house. Walk or drive around the neighborhood to admire decorations from a distance.
  • Hold an outdoor costume parade/contest and let the kids show off their costumes.
  • Organize a pumpkin carving party. Do this inside with household members or outside with masks and socially-distanced friends.
  • Visit an orchard or corn maze. Just remember to wear masks, keep six feet of distance from others and sanitize hands often.

“This year, my 13 year-old isn't going trick-or-treating,” said David Quimby, MD, infectious diseases physician at CHI Health. He added, “Instead, we're setting up a fire pit outside our house for s'more goodness, and having a table at the end of the driveway where any trick-or-treaters can pick up treats.”

Dr. Quimby advises against visiting haunted houses and other indoor gatherings. The close quarters and people screaming at frights and ghouls are not ideal for reducing the spread of this virus.

“I know that there's a lot of fatigue with restrictions,” Dr. Quimby admits, “but good behaviors now will allow us all return to baseline activities sooner. Winter is coming, which means more indoor time due to temperatures. If we don't get community control of this infection now, Thanksgiving and Christmas time will be very difficult.”

We are all tiring of pandemic restrictions. But the sacrifices you make this season can save lives and help protect health systems as we head into flu season. Let the lesson we teach our kids be that you can enjoy traditions safely, responsibly and with kindness for others.

David S. Quimby, MD

Infectious Diseases