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Is it OK to go trick-or-treating during the pandemic?

An illustration of a girl trick-or-treating with a face mask
Whether you let your children go trick-or-treating during the pandemic will depend on your situation and comfort level.
(Peter Hamlin / Associated Press)

Is it OK to go trick-or-treating during the pandemic?

The answer depends on the situation and your comfort level — but there are ways to minimize the risk of infection this Halloween.

The government’s top infectious diseases expert says families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated.

Whether you feel comfortable with your children trick-or-treating could depend on factors such as how high the COVID-19 transmission rate is in your area and if the people your kids will be exposed to are vaccinated.

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But trick-or-treating is an outdoor activity that makes it easy to maintain a physical distance, notes Emily Sickbert-Bennett, an infectious disease expert at the University of North Carolina. To prevent kids crowding in front of doors, she suggests neighbors coordinating to spread out trick-or-treating.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says outdoor activities are safer for the holidays, and to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.

The closer we get to the end of the pandemic, the harder it is to justify the risk of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for young children.

If you attend a party indoors, the agency says people who aren’t vaccinated — including children who aren’t yet eligible for the shots — should wear a well-fitting mask, not just a Halloween costume mask. In areas with high coronavirus transmission rates, even the fully vaccinated should wear masks inside. (You can check your county’s transmission rate on the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.)

It’s generally safe for children to ring doorbells and collect candy, since the coronavirus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets and the risk of infection from surfaces is considered low. But it’s still a good idea to bring along hand sanitizer that kids can use before eating treats.

For adults, having a mask on hand when you open the door to pass out candy is important.

“You probably won’t necessarily know until you open the door how many people will be out there, whether they’ll be wearing masks, what age they’ll be, and how great they’ll be at keeping distance from you,” Sickbert-Bennett says.

Another option if you want want to be extra cautious: Set up candy bowls away from front doors.


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