Ghouls, goblins and ghosts won’t be the scariest things wandering around town this Halloween.

Trick-or-treating and, to a greater extent, indoor house parties, increase the likelihood of contracting and spreading COVID-19, according to Eric Lofgren, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Washington State University.

“There is just no safe way to do house parties this Halloween period,” Lofgren said. “For trick-or-treating, take this year off if you are in a vulnerable population or have any doubts at all. But if you must go out, there are certain things you can do to mitigate your risk of infection.”

Lofgren and other health experts across the country urge families to first consider celebrating Halloween at home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a list of safer Halloween activities families may enjoy in lieu of trick-or-treating.

If families do venture out, Lofgren encourages limiting groups to members of a single household as well as obeying the following precautions:

  • Have kids wear a face mask under their Halloween mask
  • Stay six feet apart from other groups
  • Stay with your kids to ensure they’re wearing their masks
  • Use hand sanitizer frequently
  • Put candy in individual piles or bags a safe distance away from your home
  • Wash hands immediately when you get home

Residents who want to hand out treats can use porch or outdoor lights to signal their participation, Lofgren said. He also recommends handing out candy that has been factory wrapped in plastic rather than made at home.

“Stay away from homemade good just because it is harder to know if they have come in contact with someone with COVID,” Lofgren said. “It is hard to wash a candy apple but something you bought in a wrapper is probably perfectly safe.”

Another suggestion is to offer individual treat bags rather than communal bowls and limit contact by placing the candy away from the house where children can retrieve it at a safe distance.

“Holding a bowl of candy while a group of eight-year-olds try to pick out their favorite pieces involves a lot of unnecessary close contact,” Lofgren said. “Sitting on your porch at a safe distance and waving to trick or treaters as they go by and pick up some candy is a much safer alternative.”

Media contact:

  • Eric Lofgren, Assistant Professor, Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, 509‑335‑4022, eric.lofgren@wsu.edu