Halloween traditions for children, like trick-or-treating, haunted houses and creative costumes will be different this year because of COVID-19. With Wisconsin currently experiencing uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, family physicians say there are just too many cases for traditional Halloween to be safe this year.

“Children are susceptible to COVID-19 infections, and even if they themselves do not get very sick from the virus, they can spread it to family or other members of the community,” says Dr. Brittany Goodrich-Braun, MD, family medicine specialist at Partnership Community Health Center, a Be Safe Wisconsin partner. She reminds Wisconsinites, “Individuals with the virus may be contagious for up to 48 to 72 hours before they show symptoms, so just because someone feels healthy today does not mean they may not get sick.”

Dr. Goodrich-Braun adds, “I would encourage parents and caregivers to explain that even though it is a holiday, we must still practice social distancing and other safe behaviors.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services advises against trick-or-treating house-to-house. It also advises against in-person contact. Many communities are turning to their local health departments for tips and ideas to help have a fun-filled, yet frightful night. Here is what you need to know about having fun without the fear of catching the coronavirus or being spooked by the potential spread of it.

Avoid High-Risk Activities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has comprehensive guidelines on how to approach the holiday, and it starts by taking preventive measures. The CDC suggests avoiding these higher risk activities.

  • Trunk-or-treating events, where kids pick up bags of candy out of the trunks of cars parked in a designated area.
  • Participating in indoor costume parties.
  • Going to indoor haunted houses where people may be crowded together and screaming.
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people not in your household.
  • Traveling to a fall festival not in your community.

Manage the Mask

Health experts also advise parents against a child wearing a costume mask, saying it will not properly protect a child from the COVID-19 virus. Also, wearing a face mask under a costume mask could make it hard for your child to breathe.

“My suggestion to parents would be to tell their kids not to wear their costume mask but rather decorate a cloth mask to coordinate with their costume,” says Dr. Abby Smolcich, MD, Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. ThedaCare is a Be Safe Wisconsin partner.

Trick-or-Treat Tips

If parents do decide to hand out treats or safely trick-or-treat at the homes of family or friends, Dr. Smolcich recommends these safety tips.

  • Walk the neighborhood with people with whom they are in regular contact or who are part of their “quarantine pod.”
  • Place candy in individual plastic bags and leave the bags on the doorstep or on a table on the sidewalk for children to pick up.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before putting the candy packages together.
  • Empty bags once candy is brought home and everyone who touches the bags should wash their hands thoroughly.

But health officials say staying home to trick-or-treat is the safest move to make. A couple spirited options for families include –

  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with household members looking for candy in or around your home.
  • Going door-to-door within your home, knock and have adults on the other side opening the door with a treat to hand out.

Homespun Fun without the Fear

There is more to Halloween than trick-or-treating. Health experts suggest these low-risk activities to celebrate all day long at home.

  • Hit a Halloween piñata and collect the candy or trinkets when it breaks open.
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household.
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.
  • Decorate your house, apartment, or living space.
  • Have a virtual Halloween costume contest.
  • Have an outdoor costume parade, maintaining physical distance.
  • Have a family Halloween-themed dinner, with everyone wearing a costume and staying in character during the meal.
  • Play a game of Halloween Bingo.
  • Visit a virtual Escape Room online.
  • Have a Halloween movie night.

Halloween might not look or feel like it has in the past, but you can still have a ghoulish time by staying socially distant, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding unnecessary contact with people outside of your household.