Halloween is coming. Should trick-or-treating be canceled? [Updated]

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 Hands Picking Candy From Halloween Basket
There’s always that one kid who rummages around in the bowl for 20 minutes to see what their options are.
Photo: Oliver Kramm / EyeEm (Getty Images)

Update, September 24, 2020: As the question of Halloween continues to be waffled on at the state, county, and city level, Adedayo Akala has a piece at NPR this morning about the high hopes families still have for the holiday this year. The story cites new guidelines from the CDC about how to celebrate safely amid the pandemic, which includes a list of typical Halloween activities sorted by their risk level. (“Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends” is a lower risk activity, while “Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming” carries a higher risk.)

Sales figures would suggest that Americans are trying to keep the holiday spirit alive; according to NPR, “The National Retail Federation projects $8 billion in Halloween spending, down from about $8.8 billion last year because of the expected dip in participation in holiday activities.” So the numbers are down, but not by as much as you might think. One parent quoted in the NPR story bought their child three different costumes to make this year feel extra-special, while Hershey has pivoted successfully by “[cutting] back on Halloween packaging and [focusing] more on candy that’s consumed in homes rather than passed out.”

If you are planning on taking your kids around the neighborhood for candy this year, here’s what the CDC labels as “moderate risk,” its lowest risk assessment for anything resembling the traditional trick-or-treat scenario: “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).” 


Original post, September 10, 2020: Earlier this week, Los Angeles County banned trick-or-treating for Halloween 2020. Even those who balked at these restrictions could understand why city government officials might have taken such drastic measures: the county is still experiencing high rates of COVID-19 transmission, and a bunch of little kids crowding sidewalks and tearing into candy bars with unwashed hands didn’t seem like any sort of way to prevent spread of the virus. But LA has already walked back the ban following pushback from residents; now, officials are simply discouraging Halloween from happening.

“We are recommending that trick-or-treating not happen this year,” LA County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer told reporters. “It’s just not sensible in a pandemic.”

For those insistent upon the tradition of trick-or-treating, though, there might be some solutions to be found—after all, when restaurants were shut down back in the spring, people got clever and found ways to wed social distancing with eating. Delish highlighted this week the work of YouTube DIY duo Wicked Makers, who want to save Halloween 2020 with a candy slide. Observe!

Using nothing more elaborate than PVC pipe and glue guns (and, okay, a hacksaw to get the proper length of PVC pipe), Wicked Makers has designed an appropriately creepy candy delivery chute that keeps kids away from doorways. Is this enough to reassure concerned parents or government officials, though? Should we do as Delish recommends and simply chuck pieces of candy from a distance? Or maybe every house in the neighborhood should become the house that leaves the bowl on the porch with a note saying “Take only one, please.” Whatever modifications are made, you can bet that every kid in America is silently praying for a solution that lets them net tons of free candy that they can pretend they’ve earned by criss-crossing the neighborhood dressed as Lego Batman. The question is, will their prayers be answered?