Last year, COVID-19 forced Halloween revelers to get creative: There were candy chutes for contactless treat delivery and outdoor candy tables. Some people, particularly those over 50 and more at risk, opted out altogether.
This Halloween is a lot less scary, at least when it comes to the coronavirus. Although official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still in the works, experts are giving the green light to enjoy the creepy holiday.
Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently endorsed celebrating Halloween safely, especially for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination. “I think that, particularly if you’re vaccinated, you can get out there and enjoy it,” Fauci said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Of course, that comes with caveats.
“If you’re able to be outdoors, absolutely. Limit crowds. I wouldn’t necessarily go to a crowded Halloween party, but I think that we should be able to let our kids go trick-or-treating in small groups,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a recent interview on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Older adults can enjoy Halloween, with some precautions, says Vivek Cherian, a Baltimore, Maryland–based internal medicine physician at Amita Health. His advice for those over 50 — vaccinated and unvaccinated: Practice social distancing, minimize gathering in large groups, and wear a mask. Experts also recommend sticking to outdoor activities like trick-or-treating, hay rides and pumpkin patches.
“Bottom line, you can participate in Halloween events this year; just be smart about it,” Cherian says.
Enjoy Halloween, but with precautions
Is it safe to give out candy? Yes. You may want to wear a mask (not the costume variety!) as you open and close your door to protect yourself and others.
Is it safe to trick or treat with my grandchildren? Yes. Consider wearing a mask to protect yourself and children who are unvaccinated. Try to avoid crowded areas.
Can I get COVID-19 from touching candy? Unlikely. Medical experts say COVID-19 is largely spread through respiratory droplets and not on surfaces.
Is it safe to go to a Halloween party? Maybe. Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings. Avoid crowded indoor gatherings. If indoors, make sure to wear a mask.
Unlike last year, when door-to-door trick-or-treating was considered high risk, this and other outdoor activities are probably the best low-risk options. Indoor gatherings raise more concerns. Experts suggest considering factors like the vaccination status of those who will attend, the number of people expected and ventilation. An indoor event may be okay if all attendees are vaccinated — or it can be risky if you or others are unvaccinated.
Nothing is zero-risk, Cherian says, but in the past year and a half scientists have learned that surface transmission of the coronavirus is not as much of a concern as experts initially suspected. Airborne spread, particularly by the more- contagious delta variant, is much more significant.
“The issue has always been, and continues to be, respiratory droplets [and] face-to-face transmission,” Cherian says. “Continue to wear your mask while out trick-or-treating, but you don’t need to worry about the virus being on the candy and spreading afterwards.”
It’s important for adults to wear masks to protect themselves and those around them — particularly children, many of whom are still ineligible for vaccines, Cherian says.
“The data has shown with the delta variant even if you are vaccinated and you have a breakthrough infection (regardless if you are symptomatic or not), you essentially carry the same viral load in your nasopharynx as those individuals who are unvaccinated, and this can be unknowingly spread to others without proper caution,” Cherian says.