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Halloween 2020: CDC Guidelines for a Safe Holiday

Monday, September 28, 2020 9:27 AM

By: Lauren McRae

COVID-19 is still posing a serious threat, so how will it affect your family’s Halloween this year? Even if you’re feeling spooked about the pandemic, the good news is you don’t have to cancel Halloween altogether.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends coming up with a safety plan for the upcoming holiday. To make it easier, the agency released new low-risk, moderate-risk and high-risk guidelines to help your family distinguish which activities are safe and unsafe, how to handle trick or treating, costume parties, Halloween parades and other spooky season activities this year.

Even for die-hard Halloween fans, “there’s a lot of Halloween activities you can do short of going trick or treating door-to-door,” says Michael S. Caplan, MD, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics. “Each family is going to have to weigh the risk and benefits for themselves.”

Here’s what you need to know about the risk level of various activities:


  • 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


  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
  • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
  • 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.
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
  • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart
  • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.

High-Risk: (The CDC recommends avoiding these activities this season.)

  • 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 judgment and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

NorthShore and the CDC maintains that it's vitally important for all Americans to enjoy the season responsibly. The agency also said its guidelines do not replace or superseded any local or state mandates.