'You should not go trick-or-treating': California releases guidance for celebrating Halloween during pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The California Department of Public Health has released guidance for how to safely celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Most notably, the state "strongly discourages" trick-or-treating.

"To protect yourself and your community, you should not go trick-or-treating or mix with others outside allowed private gatherings this Halloween season," the guidance says.

RELATED: California suggests outdoor holiday gatherings with people from 3 households or less

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's Health and Human Services Secretary, said this is not a flat out ban on trick-or-treating, but that people should think twice before doing so.

"The whole act of going door to door in groups, ringing doorbells, digging into buckets of delicious candy, creates a risk of spreading COVID-19," Dr. Ghaly said.

In addition, he said that if someone does transmit COVID-19 through trick-or-treating it would be nearly impossible to contact trace.

Instead, the state has released recommendations for alternative ways to celebrate Halloween, including hosting an online costume party or pumpkin carving; participating in a car-based activity, such as a drive-in movie night or costume contest; or having an outdoor Halloween-themed meal with a small group of friends.

"During this hard time, we know the importance of Halloween," Dr. Ghaly said. "We've outlined a number of important activities that can supplement and create alternatives in lieu of that trick-or-treating."



Here are the full recommendations from the CDPH:

The safest way to celebrate Halloween is to spend time with people in the same household or to celebrate virtually. Some specific alternatives that are low risk but still capture the holiday fun include:

  • Creating a haunted house or candy scavenger hunt in your home

  • Having a scary movie night and Halloween-themed activities (pumpkin carving, face painting) at home

  • Participating in online parties/contests (e.g. costume or pumpkin carvings)

  • Attending car-based outings where people do not leave their car including drive-in events or contests or movies; driving through an area with Halloween displays

  • Eating a Halloween-themed meal with your household (alone or with up to 2 other households, not including your own, for a meal outside following all other gathering guidelines)

  • Enjoying a Halloween-themed art installation at an outdoor museum with your household

  • Dressing up homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations


  • Giving treats at home only to those in your household

  • Send a curated playlist and/or themed treats (or tricks) to your friends ahead of time

  • Designing face masks that reflect your child/ren's Halloween costumes

  • Prepare a Halloween basket for your children or Halloween hunt in your backyard


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The safest way to celebrate Día de los Muertos is to spend time with people in the same household or to celebrate virtually. Some specific alternatives that are low risk but still capture the cultural celebration inlcude:

  • Altars: Consider placing and creating your altar in a front window or outside so others can view from a safe social distance.

  • Virtual Altar: Create a virtual space to honor lost loved ones. Share with family and friends via email or social media.

  • Cemetery Visits: If you visit the cemetery, only visit with those you live with, wear masks and maintain appropriate social distancing. Limit time spent to minimum necessary.


In general, the more people from different households with whom a person interacts, the closer the physical interaction is, and the longer the interaction lasts, the higher the risk that a person with COVID-19 infection -- symptomatic or asymptomatic -- may spread it to others.

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California health officials say trick-or-treating and gathering in large groups are "strongly discouraged" this Halloween during the coronavirus pandemic.



Trick-or-treating without necessary modifications promotes congregating and mixing of many households, particularly on crowded doorsteps, which can increase the spread of COVID-19. That type of mixing is not currently permitted in California. Additionally, if there is a positive case discovered, it is very challenging to do appropriate contact tracing to identify all those who have been potentially exposed.

To protect yourself and your community, you should not go trick-or-treating or mix with others outside allowed private gatherings this Halloween season.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Halloween or Día de los Muertos it is important to keep the following in mind:

Face Coverings: Face coverings must be worn in accordance with the CDPH Guidance on the Use of Face Coverings, unless an exemption is applicable. Please note plastic, rubber, vinyl and other Halloween costume masks are not an acceptable substitute for cloth face-coverings for the prevention of COVID-19 spread.

Practice Social Distancing: Avoid confined spaces, especially indoors. Stay least 6 feet away (3 or more adult steps) from all other people who are not part of your own household, especially while talking, eating, drinking, and singing.

Good Hygiene: Wash or sanitize your hands often. Clean frequently touched items regularly.

Minimize Mixing: Plan activities to limit mixing between different households. Currently gatherings of more than three households are prohibited in California. Californians are permitted to gather with a maximum of two other households. This means that on Halloween, if you are spending time with others, you must stick with a maximum of three households (including your own), and not mingle with others.

Stay Home if You are Sick or You are in a High Risk Group: If you are sick, or you have been in contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 stay home, and away from others. People at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 (such as older adults, people with chronic medical conditions) are strongly urged to stay home. If you are sick or in a high risk group, you should discourage trick-or-treaters from coming to your door by turning off your porch light and other Halloween decoration lights on Halloween night.

Please respect your neighbors and your community: Everyone is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic to the best of their abilities and has different comfort levels about what is safe to do. Your local community or your neighbors may be more restrictive than these CDPH guidelines, and we ask that you respect your neighbors' wishes and concerns.

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