Tips to celebrate Halloween safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

Halloween 2020 doesn't have to be canceled by coronavirus. Here are tips to keep your little ghosts happy, even without traditional trick-or-treating.

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This Halloween, there's one more monster lurking: the coronavirus.

Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled its guidelines for celebrating safely on Oct. 31. The health organization advised against traditional trick-or-treating this year and suggested lower-risk activities such as Halloween-themed scavenger hunts at home or placing prefilled treat bags at the end of your driveway for kids to pick up. 

Parents: What to consider before going out on Halloween

Sandra Kesh, an infectious disease physician at Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, New York, says it's possible to safely trick-or-treat this year. She advises limiting trick-or-treating to three or four kids.

If heading out in groups, families should ask each other if  they've been taking precautions and wearing masks. Parents can wipe down candy or let it sit for a couple of days if they are worried about surface transmission of the virus.

If COVID-19 is not well-controlled in your area, you should refrain from going out, Kesh says. Health departments and government websites typically offer public tracking of coronavirus infections, or you can ask your physician. Enclosed spaces, such as apartment buildings, should be avoided, she says. Keep things outdoors. 

Kesh advises having "a very serious conversation with your kids that if you are going to take them trick-or-treating, the rules have to be followed and respected. Otherwise, the game is over." She recommends an adult chaperone even for older children to ensure safety protocols are followed. 

Trick-or-treaters should use hand sanitizer regularly and avoid touching their face.

Crafts: Make face masks more fun for kids

If you think the mask that came with your kid's Spider-Man or monster costume offers the same protection as a face mask, the CDC says think again. Costume masks are not substitutes for protective face masks. And the two should not be used together because the combination can make it hard to breathe.

Instead, buy a Halloween-themed face mask or decorate one with a spooky theme. Plain masks can be customized with Dracula's fangs or a wicked witch's nose. Use your imagination, and you'll have a fun mask your child may want to wear all the time.

Outdoor activity: Form a candy line

The CDC says one-way trick-or-treating in which individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for people to pick up while maintaining social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard) is a moderate-risk activity. 

If you plan to participate in one-way trick-or-treating, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags, the CDC says. If you're sick, don't hand out candy. If you're in good health, be sure to wear a mask. 

Several contactless delivery ideas have circulated online: a "candy chute" – a 6-foot-long cardboard tube to slide candy to trick-or-treaters; a table stationed 6 feet away from the front door with individual bags of candy for children to grab or a large handmade spider web with candy taped to the strings.

At-home activities: Virtual costume parties and movies

If you refrain from going out on Halloween because you're in a high-risk area, there are several ways you can celebrate the holiday at home.

The CDC suggests having a candy scavenger hunt in your home or outside in the yard.  Here's a downloadable Halloween scavenger hunt list geared to kids who need a more adventurous hunt.

Download: Halloween scavenger hunt list

Also suggested are Zoom parties with friends, which include a costume contest. Netflix has a free extension that allows you and your friends to watch a movie at the same time online. Another fun way for children to get their candy at home is to have a piñata as the ending to a spooktacular Halloween.

Contributing: Jennifer McClellan, Kim Willis, Leora Arnowitz and Erin Jensen, USA TODAY

SOURCE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; USA TODAY research

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