With the threat of Covid-19, trick-or-treating may not be safe this year and kids should be kept home, three professors from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine warned in written statements on Wednesday.
"I'm more hesitant to even do socially distanced activities with large group(s) of kids and adults gathering outdoors. People are trying to come up with creative ways of passing out candy. But I'd be worried for potential spread from any contact with people outside your household," Dr. Sadiya Khan, a physician, epidemiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in her statement.
"Being within six feet of somebody who isn't part of your household, even if outdoors, is risky now. Door-to-door trick-or-treating is very hard to do safely, because there has to be good masking and physical distancing of at least six feet or more," Khan said, adding that her children plan to dress up in costumes and she'll hide candy around the house for them to find.
Those warnings may be having an impact.
Only 12% of US households will go trick-or-treating this year, versus 24% who went in 2019, according to a new Spotlight on Education survey from NORC at the University of Chicago. One in four families said they are still going to give out candy this year, down significantly from last year's 38% rate.
Most people who celebrate will carve pumpkins or watch scary movies at home, but some 41% will not celebrate at all -- up 10% from last year, the survey reports.
"In many places, Halloween is a community event that brings together friends, family, schools, and neighbors," said Shazia Miller, senior vice president of NORC's Education and Child Development department, in a statement. "Like many things in 2020, COVID-19 will disrupt this cultural celebration and represents another loss of community during the pandemic."
Some 41% of parents report their children are angry or disappointed about their canceled Halloween plans.
That doesn't mean Halloween is completely canceled.
Dr. Craig Garfield, professor of pediatrics and medical social science at Northwestern's Feinberg and director of the Family and Child Health Innovations Program at the Children's Hospital of Chicago, suggested in his statement that parents modify their plans.
Hiding candy around the house -- which Garfield called "trick-or-treat meets hide-and-go-seek" -- can be a safe alternative to traditional trick-or-treating.
"Much as I love the costumes and candy of Halloween, this year we will not go out and will not be turning on lights or giving out candy. I suggest other families do the same," Garfield said in his statement.
"Now is a time to just stay together as a family."
Overall, the lowest-risk way to celebrate Halloween is to stay indoors with your household, said Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the university medical school.
"The bottom line is that there is a risk, and it's simpler to just cancel everything. But everyone is getting tired of skipping fun events and disappointing our children," Heald-Sargent said in her statement.
"It's essential to follow the three W's: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands."
Heald-Sargent added that instead of handing out candy this year, she used the money she would have spent on candy to buy individually wrapped face masks to leave outside instead.