ST. LOUIS — Several holidays have looked different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Halloween is no exception.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Jason Newland of Washington University said it is possible to safely celebrate this year and offered some specific tips for safe trick-or-treating:
- Trick or treat just with family members
- Wear a face mask, costume masks don’t count
- Put wrapped single pieces of candy out on a table for children to take
- No jokes this year
- Keep socially distant, wash hands and don’t go out if you’re sick
- No large indoor parties
St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County are among the largest jurisdictions in the area to release guidance for residents.
Here is a breakdown of their guidelines:
St. Louis City
Earlier this month, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced health and safety protocols for Halloween-related activities.
“Let me just be really up front about the good news: Halloween is not canceled this year,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson at a news conference. “We are asking everyone to take a few extra precautions so that we can all celebrate Halloween, eat candy, have fun and be safe.”
Safety guidelines for trick-or-treating:
- Only persons who live in the same household should trick or treat together and maintain 6-feet social distance from other trick or treaters at all times. If you find that a street becomes too crowded, it is safest to find a different area or another option. No more than six in a group.
- All trick or treaters and their parents/guardians must be masked at all times.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be carried and used frequently.
- Homes wanting to participate can leave individually wrapped candy or treats at the front of their lawns or driveways, preferably on a table spread out.
- Homeowners should wash their hands with soap and water and clean the table surface before placing the candy on the table and when replenishing.
- Those passing out candy are free to enjoy the trick or treaters from at least 6-feet away and masked.
- Children should be instructed not to eat any candy until they’ve arrived home
- Once home, children need to wash their hands with soap and water. It would be safest to wait until the candy is inspected by an adult. A parent/guardian should assess the candy to make sure all packages were left wrapped, discarding any unwrapped candy.
- Children should be encouraged to practice good dental hygiene.
- The parent or guardian should practice good dental hygiene as well.
- For apartment buildings, events should not occur inside the building.
- For areas where homes do not have driveways/lawns, local areas are encouraged to schedule community trick or treating with staggered entry times throughout the day in different parts of the community either with drive-thru or trunk or treating.
Drive-thru events like trunk-or-treating are a safe alternative to traditional trick-or-treating where children can still dress up and get candy.
The drive-thru events would need to take place in large parking lots with social distancing requirements in place. Tables could be pre-set up and children could walk around with their parent or guardian while maintaining a safe social distance while wearing masks.
A limited number of people should staff a drive-thru event and keep tables replenished and monitor social distancing, according to the guidelines. Children should also wash their hands with soap and water before they eat the candy.
Drive-thru trunk or treat checklist:
- Recruit a set number of cars
- Create a timed entry schedule to determine your attendance limit
- Create a map of where cars will be with plenty of space between
- Advertise with information about reserved time slots, social distancing and mask-wearing
- Package candies or little favors in treat bags for easy distribution
- Create signage to direct the flow of traffic
- Draw markers on the ground to keep social distancing
- Mask Up and enjoy
Halloween events allowed in St. Louis during COVID-19:
- Virtual Halloween parties, giving children the opportunity to show costumes off to family and friends while social distancing.
- Hayrides or tractor rides. Limit the number of riders to 10 or less (at a time). Riders must adhere to local restrictions for face coverings and social/physical distancing. Organizers shall limit the time customers linger in the area around the hayrides to 30 minutes.
- Halloween scavenger hunts, where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.
Halloween events not encouraged:
- Parties, large or small, including neighborhood or family gatherings (with persons who live outside of the immediate household).
- Large school events; In-person schools may consider small classroom parties without a parent and volunteer involvement.
- Indoor haunted houses, where people may be crowded together and screaming.
- Gatherings in residential halls, sorority/fraternity houses or in common areas on college campuses.
- Traveling to rural fall festivals where COVID-19 mitigation measures are not enforced.
- Visiting stores for costume purchases. Consider purchasing costumes online or using items already at home to create a costume.
Click here for a closer look at the safety guidelines.
St. Louis County
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health released some advice to help residents assess the risk of Halloween-related activities.
The health department created a chart to show the level of risk for each activity. Green events are considered safe, yellow means to use caution and red means they are high risk.
Green (low-risk activities) include:
- Home decorating
- Pumpkin-carving at home
- Putting on a candy scavenger hunt on your property for family members
- Watching Halloween movies or playing online games virtually with friends
- Putting on virtual costume parties
- Hosting virtual family get-togethers
- Leaving individual portions of wrapped candy outside
Yellow (activities with risk) include:
- Small group gatherings outdoors, with participants socially distanced and wearing masks
- Outdoor mazes, with socially distanced and masked participants (avoid screaming, as it can easily spread the coronavirus)
- Drive-thru trunk-or-treat events
- Leaving individual portions of candy on a porch or table outside for passers-by
Red (high-risk activities) include:
- Any indoor gathering
- Large outdoor gatherings
- Traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating
- Celebrating in restaurants or bars that don’t provide for sufficient social distancing
- Public haunted houses
Visit the St. Louis County Department of Public Health website for a closer look at the safety tips.
St. Charles County
The St. Charles County Department of Public Health also released tips for celebrating the holiday.
The department said it is joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in issuing recommendations focused on reducing the risks of spreading the virus.
“Following recommended precautions during Halloween festivities will help to make the risk for spreading COVID-19 less scary,” Department of Public Health Director Demetrius Cianci-Chapman said. “Parents need to have conversations with their kids about the importance of following the recommendations to socially distance, wash hands, avoid commonly touched surfaces and wear masks.”
The department released these tips for lower risk trick-or-treating:
- Decorating neighborhood homes for the holiday and hosting a drive-by parade to view the decorations.
- Planning a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, virtual costume contest or stay-in scary movie night with your family.
- Gathering with your immediate family or a small group of individuals that you know have successfully practiced social distancing and limiting the number of places your group visits.
- Wearing disposable or cloth masks at all times. Incorporate decorated face coverings into costumes, as traditional costume masks are not an appropriate substitute for protective face coverings.
- Giving pre-bagged treats that kids can pick up themselves on a socially distanced table in a driveway or yard, as opposed to handing out individual treats at the door.
- Washing hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer regularly when collecting or distributing treats.
- Hosting or attending outdoor activities with social distancing and mask-wearing enforced, as opposed to crowded, poorly ventilated indoor events.
- Any individual who is sick, is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, is awaiting test results or may have been exposed to the virus stays home and avoids contact with others.
For more information on St. Charles County’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, read the county health department website. For questions about symptoms or testing, call the St. Charles County COVID-19 hotline at 636-949-1899.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance for people to follow but said it's meant to supplement — not replace — any state or local health and safety laws.
The CDC’s guidance is similar to several St. Louis area health guidelines such as washing your hands and continuing to wear masks, not just costume masks.
The CDC also outlined the risk of certain Halloween activities.
- Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities
- Try and limit guests to just people in the local area
- Limit the number of guests as much as possible
- Encourage guests to wear masks and use hand sanitizer
- Ask guests to "strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering"
Lower risk activities
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household
- Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
- Decorating your house, apartment or living space
- Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
- Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
- Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
- Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house
Moderate risk activities
- Participating in one-way trick-or-treating: Individually wrapped goodie bags lined up for families to grab and go while social distancing
- Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
- Attending an outdoor costume party with masks and social distancing
- Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest
- Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
- Having an outdoor Halloween movie night
High risk activities
- Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children door to door
- Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
- Attending crowded indoor costume parties
- Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded, screaming
- Going on hayrides, tractor rides with people who are not in your household
- Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors
- Traveling to a fall festival that is not in your community
Food and drink safety tips
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Instead of potluck, encourage everyone to have their own drinks and food
- Limit people around the food preparation area
- Wear a mask while preparing food or serving others
- Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items
- Avoid any self-serve food or drink options