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A young boy shows off his pirate Halloween costume and matching mask.

How to celebrate Halloween during COVID

Note: This article was last updated in September 2020. For the latest updates on COVID-19, see

Fall is a season for celebrations, but the pandemic means that Halloween and other holidays need some adjustments this year.

As families and neighborhoods gear up for the spooky season, you can plan ahead to ensure everyone enjoys Halloween safely.

“I think it’s going to look a lot different this year,” says Piedmont infection prevention director Jenay Beshears.

Big costume parties, for example, should be avoided this season, because gathering large groups of people is still risky. Trick-or-treating may be off the table as well, given how much close interaction it usually involves.

But if you’re open to tweaking tradition, Beshears says, you can enjoy some of your favorite Halloween activities in new and safer ways. Here’s what she recommends:

1. Celebrate only with your families and pods.

Immediate family members and/or others living in your household are the safest groups to celebrate with, Beshears says. If you’ve created a social bubble with other people or families, you could also host a small gathering with them.

Social bubbles, or pods, are groups that have agreed to limit exposure to others so that they can gather among themselves only.

“Have a pod Halloween party,” Beshears suggests. “Utilize those pods you’ve formed.” It’s still best to stay outdoors as much as you can and wear masks when seeing people from outside your own household.  

2. Coordinate safer trick-or-treating with your pod.

Drive-by trick-or-treating may be the best option this year, Beshears says. Instead of greeting all neighborhood kids at the door with candy, stay within your pod and place a table of treats at the end of your driveway for their taking.

Plan early with your neighbors and pods if you want to coordinate a larger effort, and give extra thought to the details. You’ll probably want to avoid the giant bowls of sweets that everyone grabs from, for example.

Create separate goodie bags with individually wrapped candies, Beshears suggests, and make sure to leave a bottle of hand sanitizer out too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks trick-or-treating by goodie bag as a moderate-risk activity, so staying with your pod offers a safer way to have fun.  

“You would have to do a pump of sanitizer before you grab the candy,” Beshears adds.

3. Stay outdoors whenever possible.

Indoor activities tend to be more dangerous than outdoor ones, especially when bigger groups of people are involved.

If you want to get into the fall spirit outside, Beshears recommends outdoor activities like pumpkin carvings or a family field day.  

4. Don’t let your guard down.

Halloween or not, COVID-19 is still spreading. If you choose to celebrate, it’s important to keep following safety guidelines for the pandemic.

That means social distancing, hand washing and masks are still important. Use common sense and look out for the health of yourself and others.

The usual rules still apply, Beshears says: “Don’t go out if you’re sick.”

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