Will There Be Trick-or-Treating in 2021? Here Are the Latest CDC Halloween Guidelines

CDC director has an encouraging message for families: "Enjoy your trick-or-treating."

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it illness, death, and a "new normal" that includes wearing masks, social distancing, and constant sanitizing—not to mention major disturbances to many families' everyday lives. Life is simply different now. So, as fall has arrived and the countdown to Halloween is on, parents are left with one question: Is trick-or-treating canceled for 2021?

The short answer: No! Phew. But we're all still a little on edge after last year—with those Halloween safety sites and festivities basically gone virtual or socially distanced. In some places, like Los Angeles, trick-or-treating wasn't recommended at all after previously being banned. Sigh. This year? It seems families can expect a next-to-normal holiday like years past, and they should feel even more comfortable if they've already been vaccinated.

"I would say put on those costumes, stay outside, and enjoy your trick-or-treating," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. "I wouldn't gather in large settings outside and do screaming like you are seeing in those football games, if you are unvaccinated, those kids that are unvaccinated, but if you are spread out doing your trick-or-treating, that should be very safe for your children."

So what can parents expect for Halloween 2021? For starters, "All of the guidelines suggested for day-to-day prevention of the spread of coronavirus are still in effect: social distancing, wear a mask, and proper hand-washing hygiene," says Anne Rimoin, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and expert on emerging infections and global health.

According to Dr. Rimoin, communities should be looking for ways to incorporate these safety guidelines into Halloween activities—and parents can take initiative, too. The CDC also offers safe ways to help kids enjoy the holidays this year.

Group of children trick or treating for sweets on Halloween
Elva Etienne/Getty Images

CDC Halloween Guidelines for Safe Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or-treating is on for 2021, but the CDC has a few easy tips to help keep your whole family as safe as possible while out and about because, remember, child COVID-19 cases are still spreading across the United States because of the more contagious Delta variant.

Here, some helpful ways to enjoy Halloween festivities safely.

Get vaccinated.

By now all parents are eligible for the COVID vaccine—and it's the number one tip recommended by the CDC for all Americans to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It's the best way to protect children who are too young to be vaccinated, but many kids are now approved for the shot as well, and pediatricians say parents should get their kids vaccinated as soon as they're eligible.

Wear a mask.

The CDC recommends that people wear a face mask in indoor public settings if you're not fully vaccinated and when social distancing is difficult to maintain in crowded places.

But keep in mind, a costume mask "is not a substitute for a cloth mask" and should not be used unless it's made "of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face," notes the CDC. And avoid wearing a cloth mask under a costume mask—that can make it hard to breathe. The CDC also advises kids opt for a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

Cancel if you're sick.

No one wants to hear it—especially not the kids—but if you or the kiddos are feeling under the weather, then you should skip trick-or-treating or any Halloween parties. Notice any potential coronavirus symptoms or been a close contact with someone who's tested positive for COVID-19? You should get tested and definitely stay home this year, sorry.

What Can We Expect Next Year?

Luckily, things are looking up. If more Americans continue to get vaccinated there may be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to resuming holidays as we knew them pre-2020.

"It's critically important that we gather, that we be together with family and friends during these holidays," said CDC Director Walensky. "And we have the prevention strategies that we know work to be safe for those holidays. So what I would say is get yourself vaccinated before you gather; it will absolutely be safer if you're vaccinated. Any activity that is outdoors is safer than it is if it's indoors. And if you are gathering multiple households, make sure as many people are vaccinated as possible so you can protect the people who are vulnerable, who might not yet be vaccinated."

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