Event organizers and local officials are reimagining Halloween events after officials at the CDC released new guidelines.
Following Los Angeles County, many health officials in the South, Midwest, and New England are encouraging local residents to avoid traditional trick-or-treating activities.
We're sharing a curated list of events and traditions that have been impacted across the country due to COVID-19.
Some cities have been forced to create rules and regulations around Halloween festivities this year as new cases of novel coronavirus continue to plague Americans. Health officials have long predicted a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the fall, as temperatures drop and the flu season approaches — all while celebrations, including Halloween, are due to kick off in just a few days.
California health officials in Los Angeles County made headlines as one of the first groups to mandate new rules and regulations around Halloween. As the Los Angeles Times reports, officials tried to issue an outright ban on trick-or-treating altogether, telling residents that it would be near impossible to maintain safe social distance if everyone took to the streets on the same night. However, that ban has since been called off.
New guidance established by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will likely push local event organizers to adapt their events, however. Even if local events aren't canceled outright, it may benefit those at risk for severe complications to stay home this year. Elderly individuals and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms should they contract the disease. According to the CDC, these individuals should limit attending public events:
Chronic conditions: Anyone suffering from kidney disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular issues, particularly for obese individuals, are at great risk.
Underlying medical conditions: Asthma and high blood pressure may put you at higher risk for severe complications.
Heart conditions: Especially for children, as those with neurologic, genetic, or congenital heart disease could be "at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to other children."
Skipping Halloween festivities is best for kids with a complex medical history, or at the very least, guardians should plan on speaking with a healthcare professional beforehand.
Which Halloween activities are canceled this year?
Each and every state, city, and county will have different guidance in place to keep the spread of coronavirus in check. But you can expect most local guidance to be based on national recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These guidelines have changed over time; initially, there were suggested limits on how many people should gather in one place, and suggested self-quarantines for those who traveled.
Currently, specific crowd limitations have been replaced by tips for maintaining social distance and limiting the amount of individuals in one shared airspace — plus advice for controlling crowds before, during, and after the event takes place. Plus, CDC officials have split all events into various risk categories to help organizers plan a lower risk gathering.
Here are COVID-19 transmission risk categories for events, per the CDC:
Lowest risk: Virtual-only gatherings, including digital video conferences and costume contests held over Zoom. Carving pumpkins and displaying decorations inside your home and on your porch or in the backyard is also associated as low-risk, as well as scavenger hunts that keep little ones close.
Moderate risk: Small outdoor gatherings where individuals can remain six feet apart while wearing face masks apply here. The CDC maintains that one-way trick-or-treating (where goodie bags are lined up at the edge of a driveway) holds lower risk than regular trick-or-treating. Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards with masks and hand sanitizer fall in this category, as well as well-designed outdoor mazes or haunted "forests" where people can remain 6-feet apart. The CDC makes a special note on any activity where screaming is expected: "The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus."
Higher risk: Includes traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children at your doorstep (including trunk-or-treat events). Indoor costume parties fall into this category, as does indoor haunted houses where people may be screaming. Even some outdoor activities are considered especially risky: Those going on "hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household," as well as those who wish to travel to another destination for a fall festival (especially if there's local COVID-19 spread in your hometown).
Other factors that determine risk on an individual basis: The final amount of people at any event, the amount of vulnerable or particularly at-risk guests in attendance, the size of the location, and local transmission rates and new cases in the area.
With the CDC's guidelines in mind, it's safe to say that some Halloween traditions will likely not be safe during the pandemic, and could be restricted moving forward. Haunted houses, for one, put an elevated amount of people in poorly ventilated areas that are short on space. Halloween parties or events, like those at schools or community centers, will look vastly different this year, if they're held at at all. And given that some states have travel restrictions to keep new cases at bay (CNN has published a full list of restrictions here), any sort of long-distance travel for Halloween tours in spooky locales will be more difficult, as well as risky.
Places where Halloween events are changing or canceled:
Some cities have announced cancellations and new regulations surrounding Halloween events this year. Certain events may be canceled or postponed due to current gathering restrictions in place in each state, which you can learn more about using AARP's master guide to state-by-state crowd restrictions right here.
Reporters at USA Today are organizing an up-to-date list of Halloween cancellations for notable public events as they unfold across the nation. Per their account, major events in 37 states had already been canceled by the end of October's first weekend. You can view their full listing of impacted Halloween events here.
We're sharing the highlights of which Halloween events are being impacted, and we'll update this list with more information as it becomes available.
Auburn, Alabama: City officials and organizers at Auburn University have canceled this year's Downtown Trick or Treat event, which normally allows residents to interact with the university's sports teams and local fire departments. Locals will now participate in a drive-thru trick or treat event instead.
Los Angeles County, California: The Department of Public Health has mandated that any large gatherings or parties usually open to the public — either indoors or outside — will not be permitted this year. Festivals, haunted houses, carnivals, and other attractions are being canceled altogether (Disneyland's Oogie Boogie Bash was one of the first events impacted). Door-to-door trick-or-treat activities are permitted (although they're not recommended), and officials will allow car parades and drive-in movie theaters to operate on Halloween, as well as themed meals at outdoor restaurants.
San Diego County, California: In-person Halloween events involving more than three households are not permitted, even if they're held outside. Carnivals, festivals, petting zoos and live entertainment have also been called off. Trick-or-treating and haunted houses are not recommended, but they will be allowed.
Denver, Colorado: Suburb dwellers in Lakewood and the city's locals won't be able to attend this area's Haunted Trail Adventure, despite its outdoor locale. City officials say they hope to offer the interactive walk-through experience next year instead.
Orlando, Florida: Some of the first major Halloween events to be canceled were annual celebrations held at major theme parks in Florida, USA Today reports. Disney's Not So Scary Halloween Party is off and Universal Studios also recently announced the closure of its Halloween Horror Nights. The theme parks' counterparts in California also followed suit.
Atlanta, Georgia: Locals normally flock to nearby Avondale Estates, where residents participate in a suburb-wide trick-or-treating event with public vendors and other gatherings. That annual event has been canceled altogether, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Chicago, Illinois: The Chicago Tribune reports that the city suburb of Highwood has called off its annual Pumpkin Festival. Illinois' emergency COVID-19 guidelines prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people at any one time.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: A small event featuring a drive-in movie and virtual costume contests will take place a week before Halloween, on October 24. Local tourism officials say these events will replace the annual Czech Village Halloween Parade.
Louisville, Kentucky: The city's Halloween Parade, which draws in Kentuckians from around the state to a downtown festival, has been canceled by organizers. Other events in nearby Goshen, like the Haunted Hike at the Creasey Mahan Nature Reserve, have also been canceled.
New Orleans, Louisiana: The Times-Picayune reports that New Orleans locals won't experience the annual Krewe of Boo parade in the French Quarter. Event organizers in the city also have called off the annual Monster Mash party and Zombie Run.
Salem, Massachusetts: One of New England's most iconic Halloween destinations, Salem won't host many of its "Haunted Happenings" parades and festivals, as Phase 3 of Massachusetts reopening guidelines limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, and outdoor events to less than 100. Boston.com reports that shopping will still be allowed, but city tours are limited to 10 people and most events, including parades, have gone virtual this year.
Detroit, Michigan: Just outside of the city, the Hallowe'en in Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn is being reimagined for its 40th anniversary. The Detriot Free Press reports that it will allow guests to stroll at their leisure and even ride a train, but won't have its annual dining or family-friendly events.
Anoka, Minnesota: Minneapolis-based CBS affiliate KSTP reports that the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World" has been holding annual community events since 1920. The suburb's festival organizers tell the station that they've pivoted to a drive-by model, where families can drive past the Grand Day Parade as it remains stationary in one place, with socially distanced marshals and performers.
St. Louis, Missouri: While the popular Cuivre River Halloween Spectacular in nearby Troy has been canceled, trick-or-treating will be allowed (with guidelines, of course). Plus, attractions in Branson — like Silver Dollar City — are hosting a multitude of Halloween events with the state's guidelines in mind.
Laconia, New Hampshire: One of the nation's largest pumpkin carving events, the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, has been canceled, according to the Laconia Daily Sun. Instead, the festival's organizer, the Lakes Region Chamber, made a Come Catch the Glow website with ideas for local, socially distanced fall activities.
Albuquerque, New Mexico: Officials have canceled many of the sponsored events happening within city limits, including Halloween in Old Town, Zoo Boo, and the Fire Rescue Haunted House. A no-contact "trunk-or-treat" event will take place instead.
New York, New York: Officials say trick-or-treating will be allowed, but the city's Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (the largest public participatory event in the country, according to the New York Post) has been canceled.
Arlington, Texas: Six Flags has also reportedly re-envisioned its Halloween events at most of its theme parks across the nation, including Six Flags Over Texas just outside of Dallas. The new event is designed to keep risks low, and gets rid of mazes, haunted houses and indoor shows, and reduces the amount of live actors in the park, according to Fox News.
Salt Lake City, Utah: While it was put into place before the pandemic, the city's annual Trunk or Treat event at Sugar House Park has been canceled, according to local tourism guides. Plus, Halloween events in downtown Park City have all been canceled despite protests from locals, according to the Park Record.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Feargrounds, a popular state attraction, opened with new safety precautions and vastly reduced attendance this season. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reports that some city suburbs, like Antigo, are rethinking annual trick-or-treating, where a scary movie drive-in event is being promoted. Waukesha, a small suburb west of Milwaukee, will also only allow trick-or-treaters to visit houses with the lights on (a signal that the household is willing to participate).
How to keep your family safe this Halloween:
Thankfully, the risks associated with heading out in your neighborhood can be greatly reduced with some planning ahead of Halloween. If you're wanting to get out and trick or treat with your children in your local neighborhood, health experts say keeping your group limited to those living in your home (or in your pandemic "bubble") can reduce the risk of spread. You'll need to be prepared to keep your hands sanitized, avoid touching your face as much as possible, and work to practice keeping toys or costumes away from others with your kids beforehand. Of course, you'll also need to keep a mask on while outside of your home — and your kids will need to do so too, which shouldn't be too hard given how many costumes can be made better thanks to a mask this year.
For more planning tips and answers to frequently asked questions about Halloween during the pandemic, check out advice from top infectious disease experts in our trick-or-treating guide below.
You Might Also Like