CELEBRATING HALLOWEEN IN THE ERA OF COVID-19:  There are Lots of Ways to Enjoy the Season Safely!

CELEBRATING HALLOWEEN IN THE ERA OF COVID-19: There are Lots of Ways to Enjoy the Season Safely!

By Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP,  Health OfficerCounty of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health 

Like many other things in 2020, Halloween will need to be celebrated differently this year to keep people safe.  The County of Santa Barbara is providing guidance on how to take part in this holiday in a manner that reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.   

Be ready for TrickorTreaters

When passing out candy, consider a plan for social distancing and use the following guidelines: 

  • Wash hands before and after handling candy. 
  • Do not pass candy out from inside of your home; have grab and go candy from the porch or driveway instead of from the front door.  Provide tongs or grabber along with hand sanitizer so there is no touching of candies with hands. 
  • Wear a face covering 
  • Only provide commercially packaged candy 
  • Place a six-foot table lengthwise between the person providing the candy and the trick or treaters to help maintain 6 feet social distance 
  • Make a variety of treat bags with commercially packaged candy and hang from streamers in the yard and monitor to ensure social distancing 
  • Place a bowl or container of candy at the end of the driveway or walkway with some hand sanitizer and watch from the porch 

Gatherings of people outside of your household are currently not permitted.  Santa Barbara County is currently in the Red Tier which means virus transmission is substantial. But there are many ways to celebrate creatively this year!

Some ideas include: 

Watch Halloween movies at home 

Watch parties can use online video and chat options so attendees can interact with each other 

Halloween movie night at drive-in theaters 

Halloween movie nights must comply with State Guidance for Movie Theatres and Family Entertainment Centers 

Have a virtual costume party 

Best costume contests and make your own costume contests are both fun 

Virtual craft projects and contests 

Ideas may include pumpkin carving, painting, mask decorating contests, home decorating contest.  Or, consider a candy scavenger hunt in the house or yard with your household. And of course, don’t forget the tradition of carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household. 

There are also many outdoor alternatives to Trick-or-Treating.  Some ideas include: 

Reverse trick-or-treating 

Drop small gift bags of commercially packaged candy on your neighbor’s porch instead 

Trunk or treating  

This activity is allowed for the purpose of distributing candy only; no other events are permitted. Follow the safety practice guidelines. Park cars at least 8 to 10 feet apart from each other. Do not cluster in groups. If lines form, keep people at least 6 feet apart.

Car parades  

Car parades must comply with Drive-In Event Guidance including: 

  • Drive by events or contests where individuals dress up or decorate their vehicles and drive by judges that are appropriately physically distanced 
  • Drive through events where individuals remain in their vehicles and drive through an area with Halloween displays 
  • Drive through event where individuals can receive a treat bag (limited to commercially packaged treats) or take away item from an organizer while the participants remain in their vehicle 
  • Children can stay in their yards in costume and neighbors will drive by and gently toss candy out of the windows as they pass by. 

Plan a social distanced costume parade 

Place treats where kids can pick them up along the parade route (daytime activity). Alternatively, provide a bag of treats at the end of the parade. Be careful not to allow spectators or crowds to gather at these types of activities. 

For those that are going outside the home for trick or treating, here are some recommendations for trick or treaters during the pandemic: 

  • Only trick-or-treat with people in your household.  
  • Include a face covering this part of your costume.  
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from other household groups.  
  • Neighborhoods may want to use arrows on sidewalks to create one-way flow on each side of the street. 
  • Do not ring doorbell or knock on doors. Instead, hosts should set up an outdoor area to distribute treats. 
  • Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water upon returning home from trick-or-treating. 
  • Hosts should wash their hands before positioning treats into single serve containers. 
  • If possible, treat should be allowed to sit for 24 to 72 hours after returning from trick-or-treating before handling or consuming. 
  • If this delay is not possible, hands should be washed between handling wrappers and consuming treats; unwrap the treatment without touching it directly, place it on a clean surface. Then wash your hands before consuming the treat. 

Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP is  a graduate of Justus-Liebig-University Medical School Giessen, Germany. He completed Residency training in Munich, Germany and Tucson, AZ and is board certified in Family Practice (Germany) and Internal Medicine (USA). Dr. Ansorg is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and is on the Medical Staff at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. He has many years of experience in different clinical settings including 10 years of Private Practice and Urgent Care in Munich, Germany as well as 11 years of Internal Medicine/Geriatrics in Arizona as well as 4 years at the Santa Barbara County Health Care Center. Dr. Ansorg has served as Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County since April 2019