CDC Releases Halloween Guidelines, Warns Against Traditional Trick-or-Treating


A zombie Princess Leia from Star Wars (Leslie Quinn) joined a past zombie flash mob performance of "Thriller." - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • A zombie Princess Leia from Star Wars (Leslie Quinn) joined a past zombie flash mob performance of "Thriller."
The Centers for Disease Control this week released its guidelines for celebrating Halloween in the COVID-19 era, and they're surely going to leave some kids disappointed. Probably some adults, too.

"Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses," the CDC's announcement states. "There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween."

Obviously, the CDC warns that those confirmed to have COVID, who have been exposed to a positive case or are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should isolate. But for those who are symptom, exposure and positive-test free, the CDC offered a list of Halloween activities it classifies as "lower," "moderate" and "higher risk." They range from the low risk "virtual" costume contest to the the higher risk "attending crowded costumers parties held indoors."

Here's a quick breakdown of the tiers:

Lower Risk:
— Carving and decorating pumpkins inside with members of your household, or doing so outside with a small group of neighbors or friends at "a safe distance"
— Decorating your home
— Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given list of holiday themed things to look for while walking outdoors and "admiring Halloween decorations at a distance," or having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search for candy in and around your home with household members only
— Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
— Having a Halloween movie night

Moderate Risk:
— Participating in "one-way trick-or-treating" where households leave individually wrapped goodie bags lined up for families to grab on the go while practicing physical distancing, such as the end of a driveway or the edge of a yard (but wash your hands following proper protocol before making these goodie bags!)
— A small group, outdoor costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
— Attending an outdoor costumer party where everyone is distanced and masked (but the CDC warns that costume masks are not a substitute for cloth facial coverings, no matter how life-like that Chewbacca mask may be)
— Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest with masks required and physical distancing maintained (Note: The CDC warns that if screaming is likely to occur, greater distance is required as blood curdling screams release more aerosols than normal speech)
— Visiting pumpkin patches where people use hand sanitizer before handling pumpkins
— Having an outdoor movie night where people can be masked and physically distanced (again, screaming requires greater distancing)

Higher Risk:
— Traditional door-to-door trick or treating
— Trunk or treating, where treats are handed out from car trunks in large parking lots (is this really a thing?)
— Attending crowded costume parties or indoor haunted houses
— Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people outside your household
— "Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors"
— Travelling to a fall festival outside your community

You can check out the full list of CDC holiday guidelines here, which include recommendations for Dia de los Muertos, too. For the Mexican celebration of the dead, the CDC similarly recommends keeping gatherings to within your household or (moderately riskier) holding small outdoor get-togethers in which people can be masked and physically distant. Hosting large indoor celebrations or bringing multiple households together, meanwhile, is consider "higher risk" and discouraged.

And while we take a moment to mourn the costume parties, trick-or-treat hauls and community revelry that could have been, let's look back at last year's Halloween on the Plaza and look forward to celebrating together again in 2021.

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