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The weather is cooling, days are getting shorter, and pumpkins – along with pumpkin-flavored foods and drinks – are everywhere.

But that’s where the normalcy of this Halloween season ends. 2020 offers a whole new level of fright to the holiday, beyond the creepy clowns, ghoulish ghosts and haunted houses. This year brings that very real and scary possibility of spreading the coronavirus with our celebrations.

Parents and grandparents face a challenge: how to make Halloween fun for kids while still keeping everyone safe from a seemingly never-ending pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics  have posted recommendations on how to safely enjoy Halloween while avoiding high-risk activities. Unfortunately, the activities that are more likely to spread COVID-19 include traditional favorites like door-to-door trick-or-treating, indoor haunted houses, hayrides and Halloween parties. For parents and other adults, the use of alcohol or other drugs can often increase high-risk behavior.

There are many safer activities that can help you embrace the holiday while avoiding large crowds. You can make a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt for family members to complete outdoors – or even inside the house. Kids can dress up for a Halloween-themed movie night (there are several wonderful and appropriate Halloween movies you can watch with the whole family.) You can hold a virtual party or costume contest with friends or host a virtual movie night. Try carving or decorating a pumpkin with members of the household or find other Halloween-themed crafts and treats to make. Outdoor costume contests/parades can also be safe, if everyone maintains enough distance.

Most neighborhoods are still planning to hold trick-or-treating, though this obviously may change as we approach the holiday. Many parents may not feel comfortable participating. However, if you do, there are ways to make the trick-or-treating experience safer. If you are planning to hand out candy, prepare individually wrapped treats that are lined up for families to grab without having to open the door. Families that are out with their kids should avoid large crowds and wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after returning home.

If you celebrate Halloween with an outdoor activity or a socially distanced trick-or-treating event, everyone should still wear a proper cloth or surgical mask. Plastic Halloween masks are fun but should not replace these face masks. There are great ways that you can incorporate face masks into part of the costume or find ones that match your outfit. Many superheroes wear masks themselves. If that doesn’t work, plastic masks can always be worn over the cloth ones.

If you are preparing wrapped goodie bags, make sure to wash your hands properly before handling the bags, and wash your hands again after emptying out the treat bags. There has not been clear evidence about the risk of touching contaminated items, but just to be safe, you can wipe off the bags with a sanitizer cloth or let the treats sit for a couple of days before handling them.

With a little flexibility and creativity, we can all work to make Halloween a fun and exciting time. This is another opportunity to find and create new traditions for the holiday while reminding your kids about the importance of safety and preventing spread of the pandemic.


Dr. Laura Shefner writes about pediatric care for the Cleveland Jewish News. She is a pediatrician at The MetroHealth System and practices in Beachwood and Parma.

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