It's officially fall. Summer produce has been replaced by decorative gourds at roadside farm stands. Halloween is coming. And thankfully, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released their guidelines for Halloween 2020, which is chock-full of useful suggestions about how to celebrate this year. As you probably expect, a lot of fun-sounding activities are verboten, per the list. But it's worth a read — both for your personal safety, and because it gets... kind of funny?
The CDC breaks up the usual, textbook Halloween activities into three separate tiers: lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk. Pumpkin carving, decorating your house, having a virtual Halloween costume contest, and hosting an outdoor scavenger hunt (don't worry, the CDC provides a very specific definition for this one) are all low-risk activities that are unlikely to spread COVID-19.
Under moderate-risk activities, the CDC names: "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." I, personally, have not been to a haunted forest before, and though it sounds a little freaky, I can picture what they're talking about. But then they add, "If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus." Okay, CDC employees! What kind of Halloween party is this?
Jokes aside, the advice tracks: Screaming — and talking too loudly — projects more respiratory droplets into the air. And if those droplets contain the virus that causes COVID-19, that's definitely not good news.
Visiting pumpkin patches and orchards, and throwing outdoor parties, are also labelled "moderate risk".
The highest-risk activities for spooky season are some of the most traditional ones: door-to-door trick-or-treating, crowded indoor costume parties (which Shannon Sovndal, MD, also called one of "the biggest mistakes" you can make this Halloween), indoor haunted houses (again, especially scary ones that might make you scream), and even going on hayrides.
Just to really drive the point home, the CDC created a whole separate bullet point in the "higher risk" list for this: "Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors."
I'm not going to mince words. For true Halloween lovers, this sounds like a bit of a bummer. But really, a Halloween where you can just order the candy you like (rather than raiding your kids' or cousins' trick-or-treat bags and hoping for the best), call your tie-dye sweatsuit a costume, and hang out on the couch, watching scary movies or "participating" in a Zoom party? It could be a lot worse.
Hopefully by 2021, you'll be able to enjoy October 31 in all the ways you wish you could: bobbing for apples, sharing a punch bowl, and wearing a costume that doesn't strategically feature a mask. But for now, let's focus on staying safe.