Things That Matter

Can Halloween Be Saved? Experts Say Yes If You Follow These Important Guidelines

No matter what you plan on doing this year for Halloween, it’s obvious that this year’s Halloween celebrations are going to look and feel wildly different from years past.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted many of our annual traditions, it seems that Americans are dead-set on celebrating Halloween as if it were business as usual. A recent Harris Poll survey suggests that more than 70% of millennial moms are planning to make “the most” of Halloween with their families, with 80% of all surveyed saying that heading out to trick-or-treat is at the top of their list of things to do on Halloween.

But with Covid-19 cases rising in 26 states, is trick-or-treating considered a safe activity? Here’s what you need to know from several health experts on how you can still celebrate safely.

It’s been a tough year and many Americans refuse to let 2020 take away Halloween.

Despite an ongoing pandemic, most Americans seem dead-set on celebrating Halloween this year, with more than 80% of Americans saying that trick-or-treating is at the top of their lists. Thankfully, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), trick-or-treating brings a lesser Covid-19 risk than events such as house parties and school dances.

But heading outside won’t eliminate all of the risks you must consider.

“In an area where there’s still ongoing community spread [and things] haven’t gotten to the point where things are opening up again, I don’t think trick-or-treating is a great idea,” explains Sandra Kesh, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and the deputy medical director at New York’s Westmed Medical Group. “In areas where the community prevalence is lower, I think it’s okay to plan to trick-or-treat, but it’s going to be a different experience than it was last year,” she told the New York Times.

CDC officials say risk can be lowered in a multitude of ways, mainly by keeping activities to your own home or backyard, or in a controlled walk around the neighborhood. Carving pumpkins, decorating your home inside and on the front porch as well as in the backyard, virtual Halloween costume contests, or movie nights at home, are all considered low-risk activities.

Communities across the country have been struggling with their own guidelines for Halloween. 

In Los Angeles, the county health department initially banned trick or treating, but then said it wasn’t recommended. The department did cancel all Halloween carnivals and haunted houses in the county. 

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hasn’t decided whether to ban certain Halloween events. “It’s not safe for the children; it’s not safe for the adults,” she said at a news conference. 

New York’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was canceled. It usually has about 50,000 marchers and an even bigger crowd.

This Halloween season is causing shifts not only for families and children, but also for businesses that sell all those costumes and candy. Sellers have been optimistic about the upcoming season. The National Retail Federation projects $8 billion in Halloween spending, down from about $8.8 billion last year because of the expected dip in participation in holiday activities.

So how can you stay safe and still have a fun Halloween?

Everything starts with the mask. During Halloween, many costumes already feature masks but it’s important to note that not all masks are equal. “A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” the CDC says. “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.”

This year you can wear a disposable or reusable cloth mask under a traditional Halloween costume mask, or you could pick from one of the many suitable costume masks that costume and party stores are selling already. These masks will help to keep you safe without spoiling your costume — and they may even be part of it or inspire this year’s theme.

There’s even a the light-up mask, which uses LED lights to create an eye-catching neon effect. This version can change color, allowing you to pick from seven different hues, and it can be recharged using a USB cable.

Go for a ride through a drive-thru haunted house.

While you might think riding, rather than walking, through a haunted house could inhibit your ability to be fully immersed in the spooky surroundings, we will gladly accept any layer of protection from jump scares. 

“Only a thin sheet of glass separates you from terror,” reads the website for BMC Productions’ Terror in the Timbers drive-through haunted house in Chicago. “Guests can expect the unexpected. They’ll experience the same type of scare they’d get with any other big time haunted house – but within the confines and safety of their vehicle,” explained organizer and spokesperson Dan Barrie said, according to NBC Chicago. “The torch lit road will guide guests in their vehicles through a series of vignettes while actors interact during each scene.”

There’s also lots of pop-up drive-in horror-themed movie theatres.

Credit: Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

Sure, you could just curl up at home to watch horror flicks from the comfort of your couch — but with the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters, why not take advantage of a vintage thrill? 

From Indianapolis’ last-remaining drive-in to the big screen in the San Fernando Valley, check your local listings to see where and when you can catch Hocus Pocus and other Halloween classics.

Even Airbnb is offering socially-distanced Halloween ideas.

If driving through a haunted house isn’t enough of a thrill for you, you’re in luck — you can rent your own through popular property-listing sites like VRBO and Airbnb. With houses available near historically haunted locations or on properties long suspected of paranormal activity, there’s a place for every type of thrill seeker — and enhanced safety protocols ensure there’s room for some good, clean fun.

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