Tricks and treats to a COVID-19 Halloween

The CDC is recommending wearing a mask while participating in many Halloween events, including trick-or-treating. Louie Bowling/Lariat

While coronavirus restrictions and guidelines still in place, there are still several ways to celebrate Halloween

Since March, California has implemented restrictions and guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These guidelines were set to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus could be contained as much as possible. With the Centers for Disease Control calling for precautions like social distancing and disinfecting surfaces and items, trick-or-treating could feel like a distant memory this year.

Like the rest of the state, Orange County has been following the guidelines set in place to keep the spread of infections low. Restrictions on social gatherings have been reducing slightly since Orange County has been lowered from the state’s watch list in Sept. Even though activities like indoor dining are starting to be eased into once more, the CDC has still given considerations to follow for the holidays.

According to the CDC website, many factors decide the level of risk for in-person gatherings like location, duration and the community’s level of infections. As of Oct. 4, Mission Viejo has had a total of 864 COVID-19 cases, which when compared with other cities like Santa Ana with 10,513 cases, the amount has remained on the lower end.

While COVID-19 cases have continued to keep adding up every day, celebrating Halloween with trick-or-treating seems impossible, but the truth is: it’s not.

Although the CDC urges against traditional trick-or-treating calling it “high-risk,” “one-way” trick-or-treating, where individually wrapped bags treats can be left out for families, is an option. If wrapping goodie bags up is used, it is suggested to follow hand-washing guidelines before handling them.

If gathering in a group, guests should remain six feet apart and are encouraged to gather in open-air environments outside. Party-goers should also note that the CDC states that Halloween costume masks don’t always work as substitutes for cloth masks.

“The City is recommending that residents follow all State and County Healthcare directives (masks, social distancing) on Halloween, just like any other day during the pandemic,” said Karen Hamman, Mission Viejo director of community relations, in an email.

The City of Mission Viejo has canceled their annual Hometown Halloween celebration this year, but does have virtual events like the “Howl-O-Ween” pet contest, which benefits homeless animals, still up and running this year along with plans to host an event with Saddleback College. The details for this have yet to be announced.

With traditional trick-or-treating being deemed high-risk this year, residents are unsure of whether the risk is worth taking. Options like close family-gatherings can offer more safety than knocking on doors in random neighborhoods.

“This year, we will be staying home to do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” said Kayla Kolbe, whose family often goes trick-or-treating together every year, in a text message.

Kolbe is one of many residents who will be changing their plans this year to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Choosing to socially distance and avoid crowded gatherings is a way to lower the chances of coronavirus infection significantly.

“My husband and I usually have to buy seven or eight bags of candy every year to give out in our neighborhood,” said Janice Hall, a Laguna Niguel resident. “This year I am not sure how it will work out. I think I will be leaving out little bags of candy that I wrap up and a bottle of hand sanitizer for families to use.”

Trick-or-treating will certainly look different compared to last year, but celebrating Halloween in a safe, considerate way can still be achieved. 

Halloween and the holidays this year don’t have to be spent in isolation. By following guidelines like social distancing and wearing a mask, families in Orange County can safely enjoy trick-or-treating and other festivities.