CDC Halloween Guidelines 2020: The Agency Advises Against Trick-or-Treating

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Getty Halloween lanterns outside a restaurant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidelines on how families can safely celebrate Halloween as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The public health institute is warning kids and their parents that trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity that could spread the virus. The CDC especially urges anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to avoid passing out candy.

Here’s what you need to know:

The CDC Recommends Putting on a Scavenger Hunt Rather Than Participating in Traditional Trick-or-Treating

halloween trick or treat

Getty The CDC advises against traditional trick-or-treating for Halloween 2020.

Traveling house-to-house is not the safest idea for Halloween in 2020, the CDC cautions. The agency has labeled traditional trick-or-treating as a “higher risk activity” that can may spread the coronavirus. The CDC also advises against hosting a trick-or-treating event in a parking lot, in which drivers pass out candy from their vehicles.

Instead, health officials recommend families set up a “scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house.” If your family is set on getting out of the house, another safe idea is to do 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.” These options are considered low-risk.

One activity considered to pose a “moderate” risk include “one-way trick-or-treating,” in which children pick up pre-wrapped goodie bags at the end of the driveway or yard. This option better enables families to maintain social distancing and eliminates direct contact with the person providing the candy.

The CDC Advises Against Attending a Crowded Costume Party or an Indoor Haunted House

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Getty The CDC advises against visiting an indoor haunted house for Halloween 2020.

For those who do not particularly enjoy haunted houses, you may be off the hook this year. The CDC advises against visiting an indoor haunted house, especially one “where people may be crowded together and screaming.” However, if your family wants to attend an outdoor haunted forest, the CDC says this is a safer option as long as “appropriate mask use is enforced and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.”

A crowded indoor costume party is also considered high-risk this year. The CDC says communities could host an open-air costume parade and keep people from different households at least six feet apart. But the safest option is to host a virtual costume party, which would still allow people form different households to admire each other costumes.

As for trips to the pumpkin patch or apple orchard, the CDC advises visitors to use hand sanitizer before touching the produce. But while you’re there, health officials say to avoid getting on a hayride or tractor ride with others outside of your household.

The CDC also asks people to think twice before visiting a rural area during the autumn season, especially if your family lives “in an area with community spread of COVID-19.” Your visit could spread the virus to others who have not been exposed to it.

Costume Masks Cannot Substitute For Cloth Masks

halloween masks

Getty The CDC says costume masks cannot substitute for cloth masks on Halloween.

Halloween revelers are still encouraged to wear a cloth mask with their costumes. But the CDC says a costume mask does not provide the same amount of protection, especially if social distancing is not enforced. The agency explains on its site:

A costume mask (such as for Halloween) 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.

Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

Approximately 1/4 of Americans Plan to Trick-or-Treat This Year, According to a Recent Survey

cdc halloween guidelines

Getty A halloween display is seen in Brooklyn, New York, on October 21, 2019.

Families in the United States are still planning to celebrate Halloween in 2020 in some form or other. According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, more than 148 million adults will celebrate Halloween. A substantial number of people are taking the coronavirus into consideration.

The percentage of people planning to participate in traditional Halloween activities has gone down compared to 2019. Last year, 69 percent of those surveyed said they would pass out candy. This year, 62 percent of respondents still planned to do so.

In 2019, 29 percent of U.S. adults planned to take their children trick-or-treating. In 2020, it’s 23 percent.

The number of people planning to dress in costume, dress up their pets and carve a pumpkin was largely unchanged.

The number of people planning to host or attend a Halloween get-together dropped significantly, from 32 percent to 22 percent. 53 percent of respondents said they planned to decorate their home with Halloween decorations in 2020, compared to 49 percent who did so in 2019.

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