Traditional trick-or-treating is high risk this year, as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has issued new guidelines for the Oct. 31 holiday.

“Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the CDC says. “There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.”

The agency said both door-to-door trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treats are high-risk activities. While one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go is considered moderate risk.

However, the confectionery industry has done a number of things to offer consumers creative ways to celebrate this year, in hopes of reducing the risk levels. 

Mars Wrigley has launched “Treat Town,” an app that allows users to virtually trick or treat for real candy credits. American Licorice has teamed up with Goetze's Candy, Jelly Belly and Spangler to offer Halloween boxes that allow people to celebrate the holiday at home while still getting a wide variety of candy. And Hershey has supported the Halloween and Costume Association’s interactive map illustrating the COVID-19 risk in each U.S. county. The association offers ideas for safe celebrations depending on the level of risk.

“The CDC’s guidance reinforces that Halloween is happening and provides inspiration for creative and safe approaches to celebrating the holiday throughout the month of October,” said National Confectioners Association’s President and CEO John Downs. “There’s no question that Halloween will look different this year, and innovative approaches endorsed by CDC like outdoor trick-or-treating can bring a little fun to the fall.”

The NCA’s response to the new CDC guidelines also included a statement from former CDC and FDA official Dr. Stephen Ostroff.

“Halloween is traditionally an outdoor holiday and the one time of the year when kids want to wear a mask. This is fully consistent with the CDC safety guidelines, and with the appropriate physical distancing, trick-or-treating can safely happen,” he said. “Whether this means employing a creative 'one-way' solution or finding another way to show off costumes, this type of activity can easily take place this October with little risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

The CDC’s full list of high-risk, moderate-risk, and low-risk activities is included below.

High risk activities include trick-or-treating, indoor haunted houses

The agency asked people to “avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.” They include:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door-to-door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming

Moderate risk activities include outdoor costume parties

Moderate risk activities include:

  • Participating in 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 with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart

Low-risk activities offer alternatives for celebrating Halloween

However, there are a number of low-risk alternatives, including:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Read more 2020 Halloween coverage:

An inside look at how Mars Wrigley is working to save Halloween

Halloween is six weeks away. What can the candy industry expect?

American Licorice teams up with Goetze's Candy, Jelly Belly and Spangler for Halloween box