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Four children in Halloween costumes knocking on the door and saying, trick or treat
Will COVID-19 change the way kids celebrate Halloween this year? McMaster Children’s Hospital infectious diseases specialist Dr. Martha Fulford says kids should have fun – safely.
October 2, 2020

How to celebrate Halloween during COVID-19

With Halloween just around the corner and COVID-19 still a cause of fright, families may be wondering – is Halloween cancelled?

“Kids have borne a huge brunt of the collateral damage of lockdown,” says Dr. Martha Fulford, an infectious diseases specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital. “We need to let children have fun.”

With a little bit of imagination and flexibility, families can plan to allow kids to celebrate safely.

Trick or treat

Keeping an eye on active cases and community spread will be key when making a decision on whether or not to trick-or-treat this year. If there are few cases in a community, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is low.

“Any contact at a house would be transient and low risk,” says Dr. Fulford. Plus, we know the risk of transmission is lower outdoors.

Wearing a mask while trick-or-treating is a personal preference, but not essential.

“Masks really only need to be worn when physical distancing cannot be maintained. The risk of virus transmission is with prolonged, face-to-face contact where there is a risk of sharing of respiratory secretions,” says Dr. Fulford.

“I would have no concerns opening my door to children on my door step all saying ‘trick-or-treat’ as there would be distance and they are all outdoors. The risk for the few seconds that I might be closer while putting candy in a bag is exceedingly low.”

Contactless candy is also an option, with self-serve buckets or creative physically-distant ways to hand out candy.

If there is some transmission in a community when Halloween comes around, or if it looks like people in a neighbourhood won’t be willing to open their doors to kids, Dr. Fulford suggests planning ahead and identifying a cohort or small group of houses that have agreed to participate.

Dr. Fulford says one lesson learned is that COVID-19 is not transmitted effectively on surfaces. The risk of the virus being transmitted via food (in this case, candy), seems extremely low.

For families that would prefer to trick-or-treat in their bubbles, a drive-by trick-or-treat tour is a safer way to celebrate with close family or friends.

Scavenger hunt or Halloween party

Another option is to allow kids to dress up and organize an online Halloween party with their friends. Or, stick with your bubble and set up a scavenger hunt or Halloween party for them outside.

“These all very safe activities, especially if these are held with other kids and families you already interact with,” says Dr. Fulford.

“Kids are less impacted by the virus and it is exceedingly rare for a child to get severe disease from COVID-19,” she says.

With some planning and flexibility, kids can safely take part in this fun and spooky season.