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Halloween Is the Safest 2020 Holiday. But…

This Oct. 31, COVID-19 is just as scary as the ghosts and ghouls.

It’s easy for a parent to relax even the most strict quarantine rules and justify Trick-or-Treating. For one, it’s an outdoor event. Two: Contact with people is limited to a momentary exchange of pleasantries for candy. Three: Honestly, this is the best bet for the kids to celebrate something in 2020. Everything holds some risk right now and compared to going to the grocery store or playing in a freaking playground or daycare, how, how bad is giving in to a few hours roaming the streets for Halloween? 

According to the Association of Parade Raining Experts, it depends on who you ask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists trick-or-treating as a high-risk activity and encourages families to find alternatives. Having said that not every expert is in agreement. “Trick-or-treating will make sense for some parts of the country, and it won’t make sense in other parts of the country,” says Sandra Albrecht, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the chief epidemiologist of the COVID-19 communication campaign Dear Pandemic.

So, if you’re honestly thinking that you fall into one of those parts of the country where it makes sense, let’s talk about the real COVID risks of trick-or-treating in 2020. Here’s how to honestly assess — and, sure, perhaps justify – your costumed candy splurge with the kids this October 31.

Is Trick-or-Treating Really a COVID-19 Risk?

The biggest factor in the riskiness of your Halloween is your location because of two major reasons: First, if your community has high levels of transmission, the risk goes up considerably because you’re more likely to get or spread the coronavirus. (You can check your county’s COVID-19 risk here.) Second, if your neighborhood gets crowded on a typical Halloween, it’s going to be harder to social distance, and your risk goes up even higher.

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Another risk is coronavirus particles lurking on candy wrappers. However, this danger is probably overblown. “We’re less concerned about transmission from touching candy,” Albrecht says. “Although people might feel comfortable cleaning every piece of candy that they get, we don’t actually see that as necessary.” People can get COVID-19 from touching a contaminated surface, but it’s not the main way the disease spreads.

If you’re like most parents, you also have safety concerns that resurface every Halloween. Luckily, razor blades in candy are largely a myth, and murderers aren’t lurking around the neighborhood. Possibly the biggest danger on the holiday is getting hit by a car. Make sure your child can see and hear clearly through their costume, and consider adding a colorful flourish that makes them more visible to drivers.

Yes, Halloween Is the Safest Holiday in 2020

Despite the dangers, trick-or-treating does check off some COVID-19 safety boxes, Albrecht says. Being outdoors is good for dispersing the coronavirus, so you’re less likely to breathe in a dangerous dose. And because it’s technically possible to not dig into your candy stash until you get home, partakers are able to wear their masks the whole night, which isn’t possible in holiday celebrations like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Halloween also has some built-in amount of social distancing. Kids can greet neighborhood friends they may not have seen in weeks and quickly move on before the amount of time they spend together exceeds 15 minutes, what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts as close contact. And although tiny Black Panthers and Rapunzels scurry through the neighborhood in candy-hunting gangs on most Halloweens, kids can go out with just their siblings or with one close friend. They can wait on the sidewalk until the group ahead of them claims their candy, then make their way to the house with the coveted jumbo size candy bars.

The risks may still be higher than you would like, but there are also risks to cutting out all the activities your kid has been looking forward to. “Being able to celebrate the holidays is important for a lot of people,” Albrecht says, and it can give a sense of normalcy in an unprecedented year.

What to Wear and How to Stay Safe

If you’re going out with your kids or sending them out alone, here are the safety precautions you need to keep in mind.

  • Wear a mask. If the costume mask doesn’t have at least two layers of fabric and doesn’t fit snugly, wear a regular cloth mask.
  • Only go to houses where the people handing out candy are wearing masks.
  • If other children are getting candy at a house, wait until they leave to approach for your own goodies.
  • Use hand sanitizer several times throughout the night.
  • Don’t enter anyone’s house for candy.
  • Only go trick-or-treating with members of your household.
  • Only go out if you are symptom-free and have no recent exposure to the coronavirus. 
  • Go to as few houses as possible to limit potential COVID-19 transmission.
  • Experts aren’t too concerned about getting COVID-19 from candy wrappers. If you’re worried, let the candy sit for several days before eating it.