The CDC Issues Guidelines for Halloween, Including Haunted Houses

The CDC issued guidance on coronavirus-transmission risk levels of Halloween activities including haunted houses and trick or treating

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released updated guidelines to address COVID-19 that are specifically geared to Halloween and other holiday events and gatherings. The CDC pointed out that, “these considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations about specific holiday gatherings.”

We summarized the CDC’s recommendations for haunts and other Halloween activities. For more attractions-specific health and safety guidelines, IAAPA’s guidance for reopening and our case study on Fear Factory.

Fear Factory
Image Credit: Fear Factory

Key Takeaways:

  • An open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest, where appropriate mask use is enforced and people can remain more than 6 feet apart, is considered a moderate-risk activity.
  • An indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming is classified as a high-risk activity.
  • Indoor, crowded costume parties are considered high-risk. 
  • Hayrides or tractor rides with people who aren’t in your household are classified as high-risk.
  • A costume mask shouldn’t be considered a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used as personal protective equipment (PPE) unless it’s made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
  • Don’t wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
CDC
Image Credit: Pixabay

General Guidelines for Holiday Celebrations

These guidelines are generally intended for gatherings of family and friends, but they also apply to haunts and other Halloween events.

  • Have outdoor activities rather than indoor activities as much as possible and avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces.
  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible.
  • Provide updated information to guests about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps that the venue has in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Traveling increases the chance of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The CDC has information on holiday travel at these websites: Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Know Your Travel Risk, and Know When to Delay Your Travel to Avoid Spreading COVID-19.
CDC
Image Credit: Pixabay

Specific Guidelines for Halloween

A number of traditional Halloween activities, including indoor parties and trick-or-treating, are considered to be high-risk for spreading viruses. The CDC states, “You should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.” The CDC guidelines offer several safer, alternative ways to celebrate Halloween.

Lower-Risk Activities

The CDC suggests these lower-risk activities as safer alternatives to Halloween gatherings, parties, or trick-or-treating:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • 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
CDC
Image Credit: Pixabay

Moderate-risk Activities

The following are considered activities that pose a moderate risk of infection:

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard).
  • Having an outdoor, open-air costume parade for a small group where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart. NOTE: A costume mask shouldn’t be considered a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it’s made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face. Don’t wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart. If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised.
  • 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 with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart. Again, if screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised.
Image Credit: Pixabay

Higher-Risk Activities

The CDC recommends that these higher-risk activities be avoided, as they enhance the risk of transmitting the virus:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who aren’t in your household
  • Traveling to a rural Fall festival that isn’t in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19