CDC warns against trick-or-treating, Halloween parties, and costume masks instead of cloth masks.

The past few months have been sort of like one long public health and sociopolitical haunted house—and this year's Halloween is shaping up to be special, too. Amidst ongoing pandemic conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines on the safe celebration of Halloween and other upcoming holidays. Here's a quick summary of what the CDC deems "high-risk activities":

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

The CDC also warns that a Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.

"A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face," says the agency.

That might seem, at first glance, to be just about everything a person might do for Halloween. The CDC acknowledges that "[m]any traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses," but insists that "[t]here are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween."


"So then I said, 'I've got a bone to pick with the CDC.'" Image courtesy Unsplash.

 Suggestions to Celebrate a Safer Halloween

The CDC characterizes the following as "low-risk activities" to celebrate Halloween:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house


Thankfully, roasted pumpkin seeds aren't going anywhere. Image courtesy Unsplash.

If none of those really get your ghost, the CDC brainstorms a few "Moderate Risk Activities," which are here in brief:

  • One-way trick-or-treating with prepared goodie-bags that can be collected at a safe distance (wash hands 👏)
  • Attending an outdoors costume party where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer, wear masks, and maintain social distancing
  • An open-air forest walkthrough or costume parade where masks and social distancing are in place

The CDC notes, specifically, that screaming increases the risk of virus transmission.

"If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus," the guidelines read.

What are your Halloween plans? How are you adapting to this year's new conditions? Leave a comment with your ideas!