CDC releases new guidance on Halloween, calls trick-or-treating 'high risk'

Wearing a (protective) mask? Yes. Traditional trick-or-treating? No, the CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released new guidance around Halloween and other fall holidays, noting that many celebrations will "likely need to be different this fall to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19."

The CDC notes that many "traditional" Halloween activities can be "high-risk for spreading viruses" and asks that people consider "safer, alternative ways to participate."

Halloween tip: If screaming is likely to occur, families should try to stay more than six feet apart since shouting can cause droplets to spread further.

The CDC also offers advice for mask-wearing.

"A costume mask ... is not a substitute for a cloth mask," reads the CDC guidance. "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 around the face."

The CDC says that people should not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, because the costume mask may make it hard to breathe.

In addition to mask guidance, the CDC breaks down Halloween activities into three categories: Lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk activities.

Many of the lower risk activities are "safe alternatives." Try carving or decorating pumpkins with just your household; if you do want to get creative with some friends or family who don't live with you, sit outside at a safe distance.

Virtual events are also listed among the safest options, like a virtual costume contest. A lot of Halloween activities — like doing a local Halloween scavenger hunt with household members — can be done safely if conducted outside and at a safe distance.

To capture the thrill of trick-or-treating while still staying safe, the CDC recommends having a "scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat search with your household members" instead of going from house to house.

Some trick-or-treating options can be done outdoors while still maintaining social distance. According to the CDC, a "moderate risk" option is participating in one-way trick-or-treating neighborhood event where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up at the edge of driveways or yards for kids to grab and go while maintaining a safe distance, and all going in the same direction. If you do choose this option and prepare goodie bags, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing.

Most of the moderate-risk activities focus on distancing and staying within your own community. Try attending an outdoor costume party where protective masks are used and people can remain more than six feet apart, or going to an open-air one-way walk-through haunted house where appropriate mask use is enforced.

The CDC does caution that if "screaming is likely to occur" during a spooky activity, families should try to stay more than six feet apart since shouting can cause droplets to spread further.

Other classic activities, like visiting pumpkin patches or apple orchards, can be done safely as well, so long as people maintain social distance, wear masks and follow hand hygiene guidelines.

The CDC recommends completely avoiding what their experts classify as high-risk activities. Traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating can be risky, as can trunk-or-treats, especially when children are handed treats directly from another person.

Crowded indoor events like costume parties, haunted houses, and movie nights increases your risk. Even some outdoor activities, like hayrides or tractor rides, can be risky if you are with people who aren't in your household and you can't distance appropriately. Traveling to a place not in your community can also be risky, depending on transmission rates of the virus in your area.

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