Coronavirus could be the scariest thing this Halloween. So what's safe for kids?


Coronavirus is adding a new scare to Halloween this year, leaving parents wondering where to draw the line between candy-filled festivities and COVID-19 concerns.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control recommended there be no traditional door-to-door trick or treating this year. In fact, some cities like Los Angeles have banned the activity altogether. But others are taking a less restrictive approach, causing confusion among parents.

“I think this year has been tough in terms of parenting decisions in general, and Halloween just feels like one more thing that we want to give our kids,” said Dr. Eleanor Wilson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland Institute of Human Virology. “We want some sort of sense of normalcy but just like a lot of holidays that bring people together, that can be problematic.”

There are a number of things that make door-to-door trick or treating particularly risky.

"The contact,” said Wilson. “You're moving people from place to place and then coming into close proximity to the people at the door, people that you haven't been hanging out with, you don't know how they were feeling five seconds before they opened the door.”

And if you think a costume mask offers protection, think again.

“Those aren't the same kinds of masks we've been using to protect each other,” said Wilson. “They're different kinds of masks. They are more breathable - on purpose - but that means that more droplets are getting through, so it could really be dangerous.”

The CDC recommends no costume masks at all this year and warns against doubling-up with a costume mask and COVID-19 mask, as it could make breathing difficult.

Indoor Halloween parties, haunted houses and hay rides with strangers are also considered risky and not advised.

But you're not without options.

Low-risk activities according to Wilson and the CDC include:

  • Pumpkin carving
  • Outdoor scavenger hunts
  • Virtual costume contests
  • Movie night
  • Decorating your home and yard for passers-by to enjoy

Moderate risks include:

  • One-way trick or treating, where goodie bags are left at the ends of driveways
  • Pumpkin patch or orchard visits
  • Costume parades where kids wear cloth COVID masks and stay socially distanced.

Wilson says focus on things that can be done as a family like watching a scary movie and sharing a big bag of treats. Or enjoy frightful festivities from a distance.

“The houses that get really creatively decked out with all the spooky music or the spooky light show, that's the kind of thing that we can all enjoy together from the distance of the street and just really appreciate everybody's creativity during this time,” said Wilson.

Both she and the CDC say “trunk or treating,” where treats are handed out from cars lined-up in parking lots should also be avoided.

  • The Halloween and Costume Association put together a Halloween activities website for parents that integrates an interactive county-by-county map made by the Harvard Global Health Institute. Put in your zip code and see the COVID-19 risk level associated with your county. Match the color – red, orange, yellow and green to lists of suggested Halloween activities based on risk levels in your community.