Celebrating Halloween during a pandemic presents challenging decisions to make for people in the Northland. Essentia Health has some tips and advice to share.

The key, according to Essentia Health, is to plan ahead so that you can still find ways to celebrate, only with precautions in place.

“Halloween doesn’t need to end just because we are in a pandemic, but it does need to be different,” said Dr. Jonathan KenKnight, a pediatrician at Essentia Health.

One thing to consider is celebrating with outdoor activities where ample social distancing can take place.  One advantage this year is that we should have pretty mild weather on October 31 in the Northland. 

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Dr. Klein says if you are hosting or attending an indoor get-together, keep it small (10 people or fewer), wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose, set up seating ahead of time so you can keep people distanced apart, open windows and/or doors for better air flow and maintain a list of attendees in case one of them has or contracts COVID-19. You should also minimize sharing items with people not in your household;

Ultimately, he recommends that people should avoid large gatherings such as costume parties and haunted houses, and stay home if you don’t feel well.

The Minnesota Department of Health says that trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity, but Dr. Knight says there are things you can do to try to minimize risks.  For example, if you're handing out candy you should sit outside while wearing a mask and have pre-packaged goodie bags to hand out, rather than having kids reach into a bowl for candy.  You should also have hand sanitizer available.

If your kids go out, make sure they have a protective mask as part of their costume.  It's also recommended that you thoroughly wipe down your child’s candy when they return, and then let it sit for a couple days.

From a national perspective, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following recommendations for a safe Halloween:

  • Meet with friends virtually and show off costumes. Have fun with it! In cold climates, this may be the first time your child can wear a costume that isn’t buried under a parka.
  • When planning a costume, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats. If children plan to use their cloth face coverings as part of their costume, they should not paint them, as some paints contain toxins.
  • Celebrate with a movie night and dress as your favorite characters. Do this as a family at home or consider letting your child watch with their friends while video chatting, with everyone starting the movie at the same time.
  • Look for community events focused on safe ways to have fun, such as programs offered by a park district, arboretum, pumpkin patch, zoo or other outdoor venue in your area.
  • Decorate pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers, then parents can do the cutting.
  • If children are outdoors, consider marking their costumes with reflective tape. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame. Remind children to be careful around cars, as drivers may not see them. Remind them also to wash hands really well when you return home.
  • Consider offering non-edible goodies to friends and family. Halloween is one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies. Food Allergy Research & Education’s Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safe trick-or-treating options for food-allergic children and suggests handing out non-food items. Make sure the items do not pose choking hazards for young children.

Ultimately, there are still plenty of options available to celebrate Halloween, but experts across the board implore everyone to respect the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although taking precautions can be an inconvenience, it can protect the health of those who you hold dear.