- The CDC has published guidelines on lower-, moderate-, and higher-risk Halloween activities.
- Traditional trick-or-treating and indoor haunted houses and costume parties aren't recommended.
- Outdoor pumpkin carving and home-based scavenger hunts are safer, the agency says.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
It's officially fall, and in any other year, that means it's time to plan Halloween costumes, parties, and the candy your home will dispense.
But it's 2020 and, like most everything else this year, Halloween won't be the same — at least if you want to keep yourself, your family, and your community as safe as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance on how to celebrate responsibly, listing lower-, moderate-, and higher-risk activities on its website.
The recommendations shouldn't replace your local regulations, the organization says, and the level of COVID-19 transmission in your community should be taken into account too.
Some traditional activities, like trick-or-treating, are higher-risk
While one aspect of trick-or-treating — like that it's outdoors — is safe, other factors make it risky.
"If someone is infected with COVID-19, their respiratory secretions can contaminate surfaces or objects, creating fomites. Fomites can potentially transfer the virus to a new person," epidemiologist Syra Madad wrote for Business Insider.
That means if an infected person sneezes into their hand and later plunges it into a bowl of candy, the next trick-or-treater may pick up some of the germs and infect themselves when they put their hand in their mouth.
While getting infected that way, via surfaces that is, has never been proven, it's possible, and the CDC doesn't recommend taking that chance.
Other higher-risk activities include crowded indoor costume parties, drinking alcohol or using substances that can impair judgement, going on hayrides with people outside your household, and going to an indoor haunted house.
Screaming, like singing and loud talking, makes the latter all the more risky.
Safer activities include 'one-way' trick-or-treating
The CDC says "one-way trick-or-treating," or where you leave individually-wrapped goodie bags at the edge of a driveway or yard for trick-or-treaters to grab is a moderately risky way to celebrate.
Costume parades, haunted forest visits, pumpkin patches, and outdoor movies are also moderate-risk activities, according to the CDC, so long as there are a limited number of people who are well-spaced and masked.
The organization recommends using a Halloween-themed cloth mask rather than a costume mask; not both at the same time.
Lower-risk activities include outdoor pumpkin carving and decorating your home
The safest ways to celebrate Halloween without skipping it entirely include carving pumpkins outdoor with (physically distanced) friends, organizing a scavenger hunt in which kids look for certain decorations outdoors, participating in a virtual scavenger hunt, and enjoying a Halloween movie night with your household.
You can also do a scavenger hunt at home with your family, as Madad is planning to do.
"I've purchased bite size candy and plan to hide the eggs around our backyard and inside our home, and have the kids find them in their Halloween costume," she wrote.
Like non-holiday activities, the guidelines for what's safer and not-so-safe remain the same until we learn more, Madad said.
"Prioritize which activities would be the least risky: outdoors vs. indoors, a restaurant with multiple diners vs. solo dinner with a friend, hair cut by appointment vs. walk in with multiple patrons," she said. "Do keep in mind it can take just one unsafe encounter to contract COVID-19."
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