With Halloween and Día de los Muertos fast approaching, Austin Public Health (APH) issued suggestions regarding how to observe the October holidays amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. As part of its Halloween-specific guidelines, APH is discouraging trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treat, its parking lot iteration, because both are considered high-risk activities.
The Halloween and Día de los Muertos protocols were issued in accordance with the city’s stage 3 status in its risk-based guidelines, as well as its current number of novel coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. They were created in line with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but APH notes that these aren’t official “local orders or rules” (read: trick-or-treating isn’t officially banned).
“It is hard to predict what the spread of COVID-19 will look like by October 31,” an APH spokesperson told Eater in late September when asked about Halloween guidelines. “In Stage 3, individuals should avoid all social gatherings, which would include gatherings outside of your household such as going door-to-door for Halloween.”
The APH guidelines categorize typical Halloween (Saturday, October 31) and Día de los Muertos (Monday, November 2) activities by their risk factors, based on how much social interaction each entails.
Other high-risk — and therefore not recommended — Halloween activities include indoor costume parties with no social distancing, hayrides with people outside of household groups, and visiting an indoor haunted house. For Día de los Muertos, discouraged activities include indoor events where people are singing, large dinner parties, and crowded cemetery parties.
For those who still insist on trick-or-treating, APH included COVID-19 mitigation tips, such as wearing facial coverings, sticking to your household group, and social distancing from other groups; waiting to approach homes until other trick-or-treaters leave; using hand sanitizer after each home visit; only accepting wrapped candy, and either straight-up washing said candy or leaving it alone for 24 to 48 hours.
Other preferred low-risk Halloween activities include pumpkin carving with household groups, putting up pinatas or holding at-home candy hunts, having a virtual costume contest, and decorating at home. For Día de los Muertos, APH suggestions include setting up altars at home, decorating masks, and cooking and sharing food with friends and family via contactless drop-offs.
Currently, Travis County and Austin’s “stay home, mask, and otherwise be safe” orders, which require facial coverings and discourage social gatherings of more than 10 people, are still in effect through December 15.
Multiple cities across the country, including Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, aren’t recommending trick-or-treating either. San Francisco also banned Halloween parties, festivals, and live events.
- COVID-19 Safety During Halloween and Día de los Muertos [City of Austin]