ITHACA, N.Y. –– As the world around us continues to be ever terrifying, Halloween is a chance to have fun frights and a ghoulish good time –– but Tompkins County is cautioning local ghosts and goblins to practice safety while enjoying the holiday.

As many traditional Halloween activities, such as trick or treating and costume parties can be high-risk for spreading the COVID-19 virus, the Tompkins County Department has put forth several safer, alternative ways to still enjoy yourself on the 31st.

Listed below are ideas for low risk, moderate risk, and high risk activities.

Lower risk activities

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating inside with members of your household. Then put them out for neighbors to see
  • Pumpkin carving or decorating outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • A Halloween scavenger hunt where household members look for particular Halloween-themed things in their neighborhood, or hidden right in their home
  • A virtual Halloween costume contest
  • A Halloween movie night with household members

Moderate risk activities

  • Trick or Treating 
    • “One-way” trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after preparing the bags.
    • For more info about Trick or Treat safety, see information in the story trick or tbelow. 
  • Costume activities
    • Outdoor, open-air costume parade with a limited number of people, and everyone is distanced 6 feet apart
    • Outdoor, open-air costume party where everyone wears a protective face covering, and attendance is limited to allow people can remain more than 6 feet apart.

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors

Trick or Treat SafetyImage of a flyer about Trick or Treat safetyTrick or treating is considered a moderate risk activity.

  • Stay home if you don’t feel well, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19!
  • Neighbors and Trick or Treaters, please follow these important safety guidelines:
  • Distance
    • Neighbors: Prepare individually wrapped treat bags, and put them outside your door where Trick-or-Treaters can get them and stay distanced. Put treats out separately, rather than in a bowl. Do not allow or encourage Trick-or-Treaters to knock on your door or ring your doorbell.
    • Trick or Treaters: Group only with members of your household. Keep 6 feet of distance from people not in your household, and do not share or trade treats. Please do not approach front doors, and instead pick up individual treats at a distance.
  • Face Covering
    • Neighbors: Wear a face covering when preparing treat bags, when taking your treats outdoors, and if you are greeting trick or treaters, while maintaining 6 feet of distance.
    • Trick-or-Treaters: You must wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth at all times while trick or treating. A costume mask is not a suitable substitute for a cloth face covering. Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth face covering because it makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth face covering.
  • Density
    • Neighbors: Place your treats as close to the sidewalk or edge of your property as is practical to avoid crowding and congestion along narrow walkways or entryways.
    • Trick-or-Treaters: Please don’t crowd porches, sidewalks, or entryways. Only one household at a time should go on a neighbor’s property for treats. Make sure your household group stays at least 6 feet away from other groups. Household groups need to take turns, so please be patient so everyone stays safe and has fun!
  • Hand Hygiene
    • Neighbors: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing your treats, and anytime you take a break from preparation activities.
    • Trick-or-Treaters: Wait until you get home before you eat any of your treats, and discard any that are unwrapped or damaged. Consider carrying hand sanitizer with you, and use it between households. Wash your hands well with soap and water when you get home

As a reminder, If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, do not feel well, or if you know that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in Halloween festivities in-person, and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Do not share costumes unless they are laundered first, and never share costume masks unless they are thoroughly sanitized. Click here to download the Welcome sign and safety guidance (PDF) and for NYS guidance document, click here (PDF).

And don’t forget to have a happy Halloween!

Featured image courtesy of Cory Doctorow via Flickr. 

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at