Your Halloween how-to

A guide to celebrating spooky season in a pandemic

The leaves are turning, the air is getting chilly, your kids are bugging you about whether they’ll be able to go trick-or-treating.

And here’s the good news: with the right precautions in place, yes, they can!

For those familiar with Emily’s Washington Post opinion piece, this is old news. But if you’re looking for the bare-bones guidance (a quick rundown of the advice minus Emily’s witty anecdotes), this issue is for you.

The overarching thing to recognize here is that kids are adaptable and many will likely be thrilled to just get dressed up and eat candy. It’s us adults who will have to look beyond our disappointment that Halloween 2020 will be unlike those of years past, and focus on making the holiday as fun as possible given the circumstances.

From an epidemiological perspective, Halloween actually isn’t too frightening. For the most part, people trick or treat outside. Mask-wearing is central to the celebration. Adults — a higher-risk group — can walk with their children while maintaining social distance, especially if parents arrange for one adult to accompany a larger group of children. It may be challenging — read: impossible — to keep kids completely distanced. But if they’re wearing masks and they’re outside, especially if they’re little, the data indicates the risk of their spreading COVID is fairly low.

That said, the biggest problem traditional trick-or-treating poses is hordes of children reaching into the same candy bins at the same time, fishing for the primo candy (being sure to avoid raisins and black licorice). Meanwhile, they’re breathing on one another and the adult holding the candy bin. This could potentially contribute to viral spread.

This suggests a relatively simple solution: individual treats distributed in a socially distanced way. Instead of sitting on the porch with a communal pot of candy, adults can space goodies out on the front steps with a sign that says “Take ONE”; kids can wave and yell “Trick or Treat” and be on their merry way. It’s true that someone has to touch the candies to place them on the stoop, but we now know that the novel coronavirus doesn’t survive well on surfaces, especially outdoors. Anyone really nervous can plan a costume with gloves.

This set-up works well for traditional suburban house-to-house trick-or-treating. More creativity will be required for large apartment buildings, say. But there are still good options. Neighbors can pick a time to celebrate in a nearby park, bring lawn chairs and hot beverages, and set out appropriately spaced individual candies. Kids can migrate from stash to stash collecting their loot. Adding a scavenger hunt dynamic with maps and checklists could make it even more fun. In other communities, people practice “Trunk or Treat” in parking lots. Different residential situations will require different variations, but the point is that many Americans will be able to find a way for their kids to celebrate Halloween safely.

You didn’t think we’d leave you without an infographic, did you? Here it is, handy and shareable:

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