Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year — not just because it's a great excuse to eat endless Reese's and Kit Kats or watch the best spooky movies, but because dressing up as someone (or something) other than yourself for a night is really fun. But just like everything else in 2020, Halloween this year is going to be different due to the still-ongoing, worldwide pandemic.
"You can certainly celebrate, but you have to do it in more unique and imaginative ways," Shannon Sovndal, MD, an emergency medical services medical director in Boulder, Colorado and the author of Fragile, tells Refinery29. "I'd still recommend that you are socially distancing and are outside as much as possible." The biggest mistake you can make this Halloween, according to Dr. Sovndal, is having big parties and gatherings, which are usually a staple of this holiday. Stick to treat-or-treating, and skip the bobbing for apples and shared punch bowl.
His suggestion: Host a virtual spooky season rager on Zoom or your favorite video conferencing platform (at this point, we all have one). Or plan a smaller get-together with your quarantine crew or social pod. Just don't expose yourself to new people in the name of Halloween.
For those of you taking kids trick-or-treating — or going out to gather some candy yourself — Dr. Sovndal says that prioritizing a pandemic protective costume is ideal. "Wear a costume with a mask," he says. You can get creative with this one. (We just ask that this year you skip the sexy nurse costume.)
And, of course, social distancing should still be on your mind when you're out and about. "With kids trick-or-treating, the tricky part is you still want to maintain social distancing," he says. "It's not because six feet is the magic number, it's because you're working with a bell curve to say, 'Hey I'm making it much less likely that we're going transmit the disease if I stay 6 feet away.'"
In a perfect world, Dr. Sovndal says you'd be trick-or-treating with a group that you're already exposed to and not interacting with anyone new. He doesn't advise knocking on doors, either. Instead, he's hoping candy-givers put their bowls outside their house, so each group can go and help themselves. Also smart: bringing hand sanitizer along so your kid can clean their hands after digging into a shared bowl like that.
If you're unsure about your Halloween plans this year and how to stay safe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a COVID map detailing the risk level in each county across the country. Check out your area's current risk level to learn more about what options you have this year for Halloween.
Honestly, at the risk of sounding like a buzzkill, we'd all be better off ordering our favorite candy in and watching some scary movies at home this year. (Or, my favorite, a The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror marathon.) Even though it may not be the celebration of your spooky dreams, it's better to be safe than sorry — especially as we prepare to enter flu season, and the risk of a twindemic looms. Plus, that means I can skip my annual tradition of freezing my kneecaps off in my trendy costume.