Is my child safe to trick-or-treat during the COVID-19 pandemic? How do I keep my family safe and enjoy Halloween? Can I attend my neighbor’s annual Halloween party?

As we enter yet another month of the COVID-19 pandemic, the isolation is evident as our winter holidays approach. Halloween is on display this year as we grasp for normalcy. 

This Halloween cannot be normal. To protect loved ones, avoid overwhelming hospitals, and keep our communities operating, we must control the spread of COVID-19. If we put in the work and plan beforehand, we can enjoy a safe, healthy Halloween. 

Avoid Halloween gatherings, haunted houses, and hayrides this year. Gatherings are a significant source of COVID-19, as asymptomatic carriers continue to spread COVID-19

As the temperatures drop, outdoor gatherings are less practical in southwest Montana. Cases are surging across Gallatin County and Montana and some area hospitals are at maximum capacity. Parties are out this year, but with planning, trick-or-treating can be safe for our children. 

This Halloween, follow these tips for safe and healthy trick-or-treating:

  • Keep your group small. Children and adults alike need to avoid crowds and lower the risk of becoming a close contact. Trick-or-treat with a friend or two. Keep your Halloween parties small and with people you usually congregate with. Ensure everyone can keep six feet from each other.
  • Wear a face cover. Face covers slow the spread of COVID-19. Build a face cover into you or your child’s costume. Face covers should be loose fitting and made of woven cotton. Costume masks are not an alternative and avoid wearing one over a face cover, as they can impede breathing.
  • Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Carry a pocket-sized hand sanitizer with you and use it between houses while trick-or-treating. Treat every interaction as a possible contact with the virus. As widespread as COVID-19 is throughout Gallatin County, this is a safe assumption.
  • Give the candy a (brief) break. There are limited data on the transmission of COVID-19 from inanimate objects. Take standard precautions: allow your candy to sit overnight or wipe candy wrappers down before eating.
  • Give out candy, safely.  Wear a face cover and gloves, and sanitize your hands frequently. Use tongs to place candy in trick-or-treat pails, put out a candy bowl for children to serve themselves, or put individual pre-made candy bags for children on an outdoor table. 

Immunocompromised and those 65 and older should weigh the risks and take extreme caution if handing out Halloween treats. A high proportion of children are asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. If you are at-risk, get fun and creative with trick-or-treat. A Missoula resident developed a candy shoot for his mother-in-law to stay distant and hand out candy. Some techies are using remote controlled cars, robots, and drones to deliver candy to trick-or-treaters.  

There are many other ways to enjoy Halloween: organize an outdoor walking scavenger hunt, hold an outdoor socially distant costume parade, or schedule a neighborhood virtual costume contest.  

Halloween is a vital test on how we balance holiday traditions with a global pandemic. We have the tools and knowledge to control the spread of COVID-19. We must take care to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases in mid-November, just before our winter holiday hard opener – Thanksgiving. Will Gallatin County ace our test? The health of our community is depending on it.