(Updated at 11 a.m.) Arlington County does not regulate Halloween activity and does not appear to have any plans to do so this year.
While some communities have official trick-or-treating times, the revelry has always been unofficial in Arlington — running roughly from sunset to 8 p.m. or so.
The county has, however, just issued guidance for Halloween safety amid the pandemic. In a press release, below, officials urge anyone with COVID-like symptoms to refrain from any in-person Halloween festivities, including trick-or-treating or handing out candy.
The guidance further urges residents to not hand out candy in person, to avoid large parties and haunted houses, and to not wear costume masks as a replacement for cloth masks.
Arlington’s health director previously cautioned against trick-or-treating, but said there are ways to safely enjoy the holiday “on a more limited scale.” An ARLnow poll on Tuesday found that just under half of 2,000 respondents said they plan to skip handing out candy to trick-or-treaters this year.
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With the start of fall, many Arlingtonians begin to look forward to the season’s festivities and holidays – particularly Halloween. But this year’s celebrations will be different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While Halloween is not an official holiday, and is not regulated by the County, Arlington is asking everyone to continue to practice the behaviors we know slow the spread of COVID-19.
If you may have COVID-19, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or are showing any COVID-19 symptoms, you should not participate in trick-or-treating or any other in-person Halloween festivities.
“Everyone planning to celebrate Halloween this year should avoid close contact with people who do not live in their household, wear a mask, keep 6-feet distance and practice frequent and proper hand washing,” said Arlington County Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese. “There are still ways to celebrate Halloween, but it will have to be on a more limited scale.”
The Virginia Department of Health recommends everyone follow the considerations from Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention to help protect individuals, families, friends, and communities from COVID-19 during Halloween.
Higher-risk activities to avoid this Halloween season include:
- Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
- Trick-or-treating at houses where individuals are not wearing a mask, and where six feet of physical distance is not maintained between individuals
- Events with large gatherings (e.g. indoor costume parties)
- Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
- Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
- Haunted houses where people may be crowded together and screaming, which is known to increase the production of respiratory droplets
While some Halloween activities are considered a higher risk, there are many lower-risk, safe alternatives:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household
- 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
Trick-or-treating involves increased risk for transmitting COVID-19 because of the potential of the close proximity to many people and the difficulty for children to follow mask use and social distancing recommendations. If you do choose to trick-or-treat, protect yourself and others by following the VDH recommendations:
- If you are sick, or have been in contact with someone with COVID in the past 14 days, stay home
- Maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others
- Wash your hands before going trick-or-treating or handing out candy; use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available
- Wear a cloth mask
- If you hand out candy, consider setting up an area outside, like a folding table or chairs, to set out candy. Space out the placement of treats so that multiple people do not have to reach into the same bowl or find contactless ways to deliver treats, like a candy chute that is more than six feet long. For trunk-or-treating, create distance between cars by parking in every other space
Remember: Costume masks are not a replacement or alternative to cloth masks (or face coverings). Additionally, it can be dangerous to wear a costume mask over a cloth mask, as it could become difficult to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
Visit the County’s COVID-19 website for more information about cases in Arlington, details on testing and answers to frequently asked questions. Call 703-228-7999 with any questions related to COVID-19, including what to do if you feel sick. Stay informed by signing-up for the County’s COVID-19 newsletter and registering for Arlington Alert.