Five tips — and a bunch of ideas — to help you celebrate Halloween safely this year

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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By Madison Moroder, Minnesota Public Radio News

This Halloween will look a bit different than usual. This year, there’s a new fear, beyond goblins and ghosts: the spread of COVID-19.

MPR News host Angela Davis talked with Dr. Beth Thielen, an adult and pediatric infectious diseases physician at the University of Minnesota medical school, and John Jost, who runs the city of Anoka’s annual Halloween celebration, about the ways the holiday is changing this year.

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They shared a few suggestions to help you navigate this year’s celebration amid the pandemic.

1) Adjust your expectations

Many traditional Halloween traditions, like trick-or-treating, involve face-to-face interactions with lots of different people. But this year, in order to prevent the spread and protect each other from COVID-19, some parts of Halloween may need a little updating.

Don’t think of it from the perspective of what you’re not going to do, Thielen said. Instead, she said, flip that thinking around.

“What are ways we can be smart and creative and incorporate tie-ins into behaviors to keep us all safe?” she said.

Preparing your children for what to expect when it comes to your family’s Halloween plans can help parents get ahead of possible holiday disappointment. It helps to make sure everyone is on the same page — and expecting fun, just a different kind of fun that they might otherwise be used to.

2) Consider low-risk alternatives to handing out candy

While children might usually look forward to digging through a giant bucket in search of their favorite treats, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against using a common container for handing out candy this year.

Instead, the CDC suggests engaging in the festivities at a distance by placing grab-and-go goodie bags at the end of your driveway or sidewalk for trick-or-treaters to collect as they pass by.

Other low-risk options include carving pumpkins, decorating your house or hosting a Halloween movie night inside with members of your household.

For more information about Halloween activities and the varying levels of risk they carry, visit the CDC’s Halloween guidelines.

3)  Move the celebration outdoors

Indoor gatherings increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19, in part because it’s difficult for people to practice social distancing in confined spaces.

But taking the activity outside provides a safer environment for everyone — and an opportunity to get some fresh air before the cold weather starts to kick into gear.

“Given the choice between being indoors and outdoors, [it’s] always a safer option to choose indoors,” Thielen said.

But even if you move your festivities outside, don’t forget to maintain the basics of COVID-19 prevention: Wear masks, social distance. And keep numbers small.

“We still have seen transmissions outdoors when people are clustered close together without masks,” Thielen said.

4) Wear a mask — and not just the Halloween kind

And the No. 1 COVID-19 prevention tip remains: Wear a mask.

While it may be tempting to pull out your favorite superhero mask as a Halloween substitute, Thielen said it’s important to wear the kind of mask that has become ubiquitous in the COVID era: One that covers the nose and mouth.

“Don’t choose a costume mask that leaves those openings for the droplets to get out,” Thielen said.

But that doesn’t mean it’s got to be boring. “Maybe it’s an opportunity to decorate your own cloth mask that covers your face and mouth and incorporate that into your costume.” she said.

If you’re not sure how to make your mask costume and COVID-appropriate, check out this YouTube video for a few ideas.

5) Try not to scream — seriously!

This is a hard one. But the coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets. And screaming — along with talking, singing and yelling — can generate those types of  infectious droplets.

So, as scared as you may be, try your best to avoid screaming when possible.

How Minnesotans plan to celebrate Halloween this year

What’s the best way to put these tips into action? We asked readers and listeners about their best hacks for celebrating Halloween in the era of COVID-19. Here’s how some Minnesotans are planning to keep the Halloween spirit alive — safely — in the middle of the pandemic.

Do-it-yourself scavenger hunt

Kari Rosand Scanlon, 46, said her neighborhood in Maple Grove is planning to organize a Halloween scavenger hunt this year.

Each house is planning to decorate the exterior of their home and surrounding yard. Neighbors are taking pictures of their Halloween decor, which are being used to create bingo cards. Scanlon says the group was aiming for a do-it-yourself model, which would allow families to walk the neighborhood freely at their own pace.

Another idea: Set up a candy scavenger hunt for kids in your household. Hide candy throughout your yard — and use stickers to color-code the candy for big kids and little kids, to make sure the youngest trick-or-treaters still have a chance to compete against the big kids.

Plan ahead for trick-or-treat

One listener said she plans to take her children trick-or-treating, but only stop at the houses that leave candy at the end of the driveway or incorporate other socially distanced alternatives to trick-or-treating at the doorbell.

She said she has friends who are thinking of having a bonfire on Halloween, to give them a front-row seat to the parade of trick-or-treaters passing by, while still allowing them to be outside in their yard, away and distanced from others.

Get creative

Several determined Minnesotans are using this challenge of a pandemic Halloween as the perfect excuse to develop some new contraptions — and neighbors are starting to take notice.

One house in Minneapolis has installed a candy chute, for delivering candy to trick-or-treaters at an arm’s length.

Katelyn Dick, 29, said she plans to live “the spooky life vicariously through Animal Crossing.” The Mankato resident plans to take her Halloween festivities virtual by dressing up her in-game avatar, collecting candy and decking out her Animal Crossing island with pumpkin-themed decor.