So….About Trick-or-Treating In a Pandemic

What are you doing for Halloween?

No really, what are you doing for Halloween?

I have to admit that back in the spring when COVID-19 first started really moving around in Iowa I did not fathom that we would be having a conversation about a pandemic style Halloween. And yet, here were are. Halloween is just a few short weeks away and parents all over the country are weighing pros and cons of all the activities that usually occur during this time of year.

My family will not be partaking in many of the traditional activities.

Haunted houses? Too much screaming. Bobbing for apples? Lots of spit in that bucket, no thank you! Costume parades and contests? Mostly held indoors, so we’ll pass.

But trick or treat?  Here’s where I’m stuck.

On the one hand, trick-of-treating could be thought of as the ultimate socially distanced activity. You’re outdoors, you can stay away from others, and many folks are already wearing gloves and masks! But on the other hand, there’s all the handrails, doorknobs, and hands reaching into big bowls of candy that in our current state just makes me cringe.

I go back and forth daily, and truthfully haven’t settled on an answer yet. And I’m beginning to think that there isn’t really a right or wrong answer.

Most of the communities in this area — Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville for sure — have publicly stated that they will not stop people from continuing the age old tradition of begging for treats on October 31. But, in recognition of the times we are living in, many of the municipalities have put out guidelines and ideas to help make the activity less risky than it might otherwise be.

The City of Iowa City lays out some great ideas,  and includes information on area activities that are also occurring. The City of North Liberty offers similar helpful information.

Johnson County Public Health also shares some important guidelines for enjoying Halloween and trick-or-treating in a responsible manner.

If you choose to go out trick-or-treating in 2020, here are some of the ways that you can decrease the risk to yourself and your loved ones:

Stay Home If You’re Sick

For the love of all things chocolate, stay home if you’re sick. And keep your kids home if they are sick. And if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please also stay home. I know we have all powered through the occasional cold or runny nose or let our children do the same to be able to enjoy Halloween, but please . . . this year is different.  If anyone is sick, just stay home.

Wear A Mask

Your costume mask doesn’t count, even if it covers your face. Wear a surgical mask or a tightly woven cloth mask that covers your nose and mouth, and leave it on the whole evening. This goes for kids as well (except for kids under the age of 2 and those with certain health conditions or disabilities).

Stay With Your Household and Avoid Crowds

Take your neighborhood walk only with those who live in your house, and stay 6 ft. away from other groups. Take turns going up to houses and avoid crowding at doorways.

Wash Your Hands

A lot. And use hand sanitizer. A lot. After every couple houses. Any time your kids put their hands in a communal bowl. Any time someone sneezes. And for sure the first thing that you do when you return home should be to wash with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Stick to Places You Know

If you trick-or-treat mainly within your own neighborhood or at houses that you know, it will be more likely that you would be notified later in the event of a possible exposure.

Normal Rules Still Apply

Only visit houses that have a porch light lit. Be respectful of houses that are not able to participate this year, even if you have trick-or-treated at those houses in the past. There’s no way to know if that neighbor might have a person in their household who is immunocompromised, or at higher risk of complications should they contract the virus.

Protect your friends and neighbors and overall, be kind.

Whether you choose to trick-or-treat this year or celebrate in a different way, Halloween is going to be here before we know it. We can all work together to protect our friends and neighbors and be sure that we’re all able to enjoy many more Halloweens to come.



Sarah Bengtson
Sarah is a proud Iowa native who currently lives in North Liberty with her husband and 2 sons. She grew up in rural Benton county and moved to the Iowa City area in 2005 to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa in Physical Therapy. Now she balances raising two growing boys with a work as a pediatric physical therapist. Outside of work and family, Sarah loves music, playing her cello, running, baking, crochet, church activities, and cheering for the Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Vikings.


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