CA Department of Public Health issues guidance for safer Halloween, Día de los Muertos celebrations

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has released guidance for safer Halloween and Día de los Muertos celebrations during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the traditional holiday activities promote congregating and mixing of households, which health officials say increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19. For this reason, CDPH strongly discourages trick-or-treating and recommends safer alternative ways to celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos.

The safest way to celebrate Halloween is to spend time with people in the same household or to celebrate virtually. The CDPH recommends the following alternatives for a safer Halloween:

  • Create a haunted house or candy scavenger hunt in your home.
  • Have a scary movie night and Halloween-themed activities (pumpkin carving, face painting) at home.
  • Participate in online parties/contests.
  • Attend car-based outings where people do not leave their car including drive-in events or contests or movies; driving through an area with Halloween displays.
  • Eat a Halloween-themed meal with your household.
  • Enjoy a Halloween-themed art installation at an outdoor museum with your household.
  • Dress up homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations.
  • Give treats at home only to those in your household.
  • Send a curated playlist and/or themed treats (or tricks) to your friends ahead of time.
  • Design face masks that reflect your children’s Halloween costumes.
  • Prepare a Halloween basket for your children or Halloween hunt in your backyard.

The safest way to celebrate Día de los Muertos is to spend time with people in the same household or to celebrate virtually. The CDPH recommends the following alternatives for a safer Día de los Muertos celebration:

  • Altars: Consider placing and creating your altar in a front window or outside so others can view from a safe social distance.
  • Virtual Altar: Create a virtual space to honor lost loved ones. Share with family and friends via email or social media.
  • Cemetery Visits: If you visit the cemetery, only visit with those you live with, wear masks, and maintain appropriate social distancing. Limit time spent to minimum necessary.

The CDPH strongly discourages trick-or-treating. In general, the more people from different households with whom a person interacts, the closer the physical interaction is, and the longer the interaction lasts, the higher the risk that a person with COVID-19 infection –symptomatic or asymptomatic – may spread it to others.

Trick-or-treating without necessary modifications promotes congregating and mixing of many households, particularly on crowded doorsteps, which can increase the spread of COVID-19. That type of mixing is not currently permitted in California. Additionally, if there is a positive case discovered, it is very challenging to do appropriate contact tracing to identify all those who have been potentially exposed.

The CDPH recommends the following personal protection measures: 

  • Face Coverings: Face coverings must be worn in accordance with the CDPH Guidance on the Use of Face Coverings, unless an exemption is applicable. Plastic, rubber, vinyl, and other Halloween costume masks are not an acceptable substitute for cloth face-coverings for the prevention of COVID-19 spread.  
  • Practice Social Distancing:  Avoid confined spaces, especially indoors. Stay at least six feet away (three or more adult steps) from all other people who are not part of your own household, especially while talking, eating, drinking, and singing.
  • Good Hygiene: Wash or sanitize your hands often. Clean frequently touched items regularly.
  • Minimize Mixing: Plan activities to limit mixing between different households. Currently, gatherings of more than three households are prohibited in California. Californians are permitted to gather with a maximum of two other households. This means that on Halloween if you are spending time with others, you must stick with a maximum of three households (including your own), and not mingle with others.
  • Stay Home if You are Sick or You are in a High-Risk Group: If you are sick, or you have been in contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 stay home, and away from others. People at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 (such as older adults, people with chronic medical conditions) are strongly urged to stay home. If you are sick or in a high-risk group, you should discourage trick-or-treaters from coming to your door by turning off your porch light and other Halloween decoration lights on Halloween night.


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