Trick-or-treating, parades, and costume parties are common activities of Halloween each October. But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may affect some of those traditional holiday celebrations.

Read on to find out how to stay safe this Halloween.

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High-Risk Halloween Celebrations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating a “high-risk” activity this fall. High-risk activities carry a higher risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The CDC recommends people avoid higher-risk activities, including:

  • Door-to-door trick-or-treating
  • “Trunk-or-treat,” where treats are handed out from trunks of cars in parking lots
  • Crowded indoor costume parties
  • Indoor haunted houses
  • Hayrides or tractor rides with people who aren’t in your household
  • Traveling to rural fall festivals in other communities, if you live somewhere where COVID-19 is spreading

Trick-or-Treating Safety During COVID-19

Some communities may still host traditional Halloween celebrations, including trick-or-treating and Halloween parades. If your children are participating in these activities, take these steps to lessen the risk of COVID-19 spread.

  • Avoid large groups: Social distancing is a key COVID-19 preventive measure. If your kids are trick-or-treating, have them go in small groups, ideally with other members of your own household. Try to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone who isn’t a member of your household.
  • Wear facemasks: Both adults and children should wear facemasks or other cloth face coverings to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Pennsylvania currently requires facemasks to be worn in public when social distancing cannot be consistently maintained.
    • Note: Costume masks are not a substitute for cloth masks. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of at least two layers of breathable fabric, covers both the nose and mouth, and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it may make it more difficult to breathe. Instead, consider wearing a Halloween-themed cloth face covering.
  • Remember hand hygiene: Carry hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol with you during trick-or-treating and use it frequently. Remind everyone not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Don’t linger at houses: Prolonged contact with people who are not members of your household raises the risk of COVID-19 spread. Do not linger after picking up treats.

If you are passing out treats at your home, consider leaving them where trick-or-treaters can pick them up on their own, such as the end of your driveway. Wash your hands before and after handling treats. Wear a cloth face covering if you think you may have any contact with trick-or-treaters, and avoid lengthy interactions.

Moderate-Risk Halloween Activities

The CDC also defines several activities as “moderate risk.” These activities carry a higher risk of COVID-19 spread, but not as high as traditional trick-or-treating or indoor costume parties.

Moderate-risk activities include:

  • One-way trick-or-treating, where individual treats are placed at the end of a driveway or edge of a yard for trick-or-treaters to pick up
  • Socially distanced outdoor costume parades with a small group
  • Small, outdoor costume parties where attendees wear protective cloth face coverings and stay socially distanced
  • Outdoor walk-through “haunted forest,” where attendees wear protective facemasks and keep more than 6 feet of social distance
    • If screaming is expected, greater distancing is recommended to lower the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • Outdoor Halloween movie showings, where attendees are seated more than 6 feet apart
    • If screaming is expected, greater distancing is recommended.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards, if you and other participants wear cloth masks, stay socially distanced, and use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or apples.

Lowest-Risk Halloween Activities

Instead of trick-or-treating or other activities that carry a higher risk of COVID-19 spread, the CDC recommends other ways you can celebrate Halloween.

Low-risk activities include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside with others, at a safe social distance
  • Decorating your home
  • Holding outdoor Halloween scavenger hunts, where children can look for Halloween-themed items on decorated homes in your neighborhood, or indoor scavenger hunts in your own home with members of your household
  • Virtual costume contests
  • Halloween movie nights

Bottom line: You can still find a way to celebrate Halloween this fall. Just be careful and follow preventive methods, including social distancing, wearing facemasks, and maintaining hand hygiene.

For more information on COVID-19, visit upmc.com/covid19.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Holiday Celebrations. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween

Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, Is It Safe to Trick-or-Treat During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Experts Share Halloween Health Safety Tips. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/a33826132/halloween-trick-or-treating-health-safety/

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