How some families are planning safe fun for Halloween during COVID-19 pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with guidance last week that says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with guidance last week that says traditional trick-or-treating is a “higher-risk” activity this year. But COVID-19 isn’t scaring everyone away from trying to have some Halloween fun.

Browsing the Halloween costumes and decor section of the McHenry Avenue Target store recently with her nearly 2-year-old son, Marlo, Modesto resident Lorena Hernandez said she might take him out trick-or treating. She feels the activity is safe if everyone takes precautions like hand washing and sanitizing.

If they aren’t out trick-or-treating themselves, Hernandez said, they’ll welcome children at their door. Either way, Marlo gets the Halloween experience, his mom said.

Her thoughts are similar to several people The Bee reached in person and on social media. Modesto resident Scott Bundy told us on Twitter that while his kids have outgrown trick-or-treating, “my lights will be on, and I will be passing out candy to whoever comes by. … If I or anyone in my family happens to not be feeling well, then we would go dark. Otherwise, completely normal.”

Twitter user @outsideshelter said, “We have a destination neighborhood (in which) most of us set up a table to pass out candy. This year will be no different.”

On Facebook, Cassie Orantes told The Bee she’ll be ready for kids to come knocking. And what if the pandemic dramatically reduces the number who are out and about? “If they don’t show up, more candy for me,” she said.

Oakdale teen plans safe fun with friends

At The Halloween Guys store on Dale Road in Modesto, Oakdale resident Kristal McClure was shopping with daughter Grace, 16.

Though the teen said while she’s “definitely not” reached the age where she feels she’s too old to trick-or-treat, she probably won’t be out this year. Instead, she’ll have a party that includes the close friends she sees all the time.

“Halloween doesn’t have to be ruined just because of corona,” Grace said. “There’s definitely other things we can do. We can still dress up (They’ll be Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters) and still get candy. It’s just we can’t go to people’s houses.”

Mom Kristal said she put a cap on the small number of kids who’ll be over for Halloween. “I’m a nurse, so I have to,” she said. “And the kids that come over, they’re all home-schooled right now, so they’re the same ones that all use our WiFi to do school, so they’re there almost every day anyway.”

As for handing out candy, the McClures said they’ll do so safely. They won’t be letting trick-or-treaters plunge their little hands into a bowl, but rather will fill treat bags and set them out, along with hand sanitizer. Children who approach will have to form a line and keep their distance from one another.

Online, there are numerous examples of how creative people can be about socially distanced delivery of candy to kids. Among them are variations on a candy chute, ranging from a simple cardboard tube fastened atop a banister to an elaborately decorated 6-foot-long raised and tilted PVC pipe with a skeleton standing at one end and an open-mouthed skull where the treats come comes out.

Back at the Target on McHenry, Ripon resident Raquel Cardoza said her family will hand out goodies, but also in a safe, no-contact way. “We still want to do something for the community,” she said.

Her plan is to wear gloves, put candy in little bags, perhaps, and be outside to welcome the trick-or-treaters. “They don’t have to ring the doorbell that way,” Cardoza said. “We’ll have it out and then monitor it to make sure every child just picks one and touches only the one they take.”

Beyond that, she’s already decorating and “we’re still gonna dress up and do our own family thing.” That includes carving jack-o’-lanterns, lighting them and watching Halloween movies, she said.

Those last activities are the kinds of things the CDC calls lower-risk activities. Others include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.

  • Doing a scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring decorations at a distance.

  • Having a virtual costume contest with family and friends in different households.

‘Mask’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘protective’

The CDC guidance also lists a number of what it calls moderate-risk activities. They include greeting trick-or-treaters with individually wrapped goody bags lined up to take from a safe distance. Another is visiting pumpkin patches where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.

It also suggests a small-group, open-air costume parade, or an outdoor costume party where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.

Note the word “protective.” Modesto resident Elisha Hawkins Suarez replied to The Bee on Facebook that trick-or-treating should be safe because “they are wearing masks anyway.” But the CDC guidance warns that “a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.”

The guidelines warn against wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it could be hard to breathe through both. “Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.”

Among the listed higher-risk activities beyond traditional trick-or-treating are:

  • Having a trunk-or-treat event where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in parking lots.

  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors.

  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming.

  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household.

‘COVID doesn’t take a break for holidays’

That guidance is embraced by many in a state that as of Wednesday has had nearly 787,500 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 15,200 deaths.

In an email to The Bee, mom K. Hayes said her 9- and 12-year-olds both accepted, without having to be told, that Halloween won’t be traditional this year. “COVID doesn’t take a break for holidays or social gatherings,” she said. “So many parents are saying that trick-or-treaters are wearing masks, but the truth is, many costumes no longer include a face mask.

“For my kids, we plan to buy them the candy they want and have a scary movie night. The health of our neighborhood and loved ones is far more important than candy from strangers.”

Twitter user @Renee44486431 told The Bee, “I love Halloween, but I refuse to participate in something that could endanger lives. I’d rather see my students in my classroom than them or (their) parents in the hospital.”

And David Mendez said on Facebook that he’ll be skipping Halloween this year.

Halloween Guys owner Ray Pogue said Tuesday that for much of this year, he didn’t know if he’d even be able to open his seasonal shop. Just in case, he placed one order in spring to get a good deal, but the rest of what he ordered has been within the past two months.

“And even then, I’m ordering maybe 20% what I normally do, and I’ve definitely skewed my ordering more towards decor, masks, wigs — items that are simple to wear, and simple for people to come in and grab,” he said. “And that kind of goes with, theoretically, less people going out and having parties” this Halloween season.

What the longtime businessman, who also operates The Party Guys and Grand Events, said he’s hearing in the community is that they’re thirsting for fun as Halloween kicks off the holiday season.

He’s seen an uptick in his party rental business even if gatherings are smaller, because hosts are trying to be responsible, he said. “They definitely are setting up for social distance,” he said. “I just did a thing this weekend, and they ordered twice as many tables and had them spaced out to accommodate the people. And then there’ve been a lot of events where people just aren’t inviting as many people to it. So I’m seeing awareness and understanding, but also a deep frustration about how much longer it’s going to go on.”

At The Halloween Guys, Pogue is doing his part to keep shoppers safe, including allowing people to try on just two costumes a day, and then putting those costumes in quarantine for 48 hours. Customers also may not try on wigs and masks.

As all businesses are required to do, he says customers must wear protective face coverings, and he supplies hand sanitizer at the door. And with customer traffic down about 50% at this point, he said Tuesday, Pogue can only hope that business gets so good that he had to limit the number of shoppers in the store at any one time.

The CDC guidelines on holiday celebrations are at

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