Can Kids Trick-or-Treat This Year? How to Have a Safe Halloween That's Still Scary-Fun

American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Dr. Gary Kirkilas gave PEOPLE the scoop on everything you need to know about trick-or-treating this year

kids trick or treating during Halloween
Photo: Getty

This isn't a trick!

In a sweet treat for kids across America, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave the greenlight to outdoor trick-or-treating on Halloween this year while appearing on CNN Sunday.

Candy hunters and their families, however, are still urged to heed standard safety protocol in the fight against COVID-19. Whether you'll be walking from house to house or passing out candy this year, Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, offered easy do's and don'ts for staying safe on the spookiest night of the year.

"In general, I tell parents that outdoor activities are always best. So if you're doing outdoor trick-or-treating, that's a perfect way to enjoy the season," Kirkilas tells PEOPLE.

Citing AAP data for the week ending Oct. 7 that about 25% of new COVID-19 cases are in school-aged children, Kirkilas stresses that precautions must be taken, from maintaining social distancing to masking up.

Halloween parade

"When it comes to trick-or-treating, I notice that sometimes when kids are coming up to a house, they'll clump up and cluster," he explains. "Then you'll have children from multiple households all standing in front of a doorstep, and that's not an ideal situation."

So what's the ideal number to for your trick-or-treating pack? Kirkland says it depends on the group's age and vaccinated.

"If you were vaccinated, there's really no issue," he explains. "And of course, that implies the child is 12 and up, and eligible for vaccine, and that they did get the vaccine. If you're 12 and up, I don't think it should really matter how many are in your group."

However, he adds, "If you're unvaccinated, or the child is under the age of 12, I would recommend single households only trick-or-treating together."

kids trick or treating during Halloween

"Some families are very risk-averse and they don't want any chance of getting COVID, so then I would say [trick-or-treat with] just your household," Kirkilas continues. "Some other families are a little bit more liberal with their risk-taking, so then I would maybe say one or two households, but with the knowledge that a single household is best."

And he recommends that kids of any age wear masks going door-to-door, saying with a laugh that "the masks that you would normally use for your Halloween costume shouldn't count!" Last year, he says, kids got creative with how they incorporated PPE into their costumes, and recommends doing the same again.

If you'll be the one handing out the candy rather than on the hunt, Kirkilas has some easy tips to prevent the spread of COVID (first and foremost, he says, is being vaccinated).

"If you're distributing candy, it's always best to do it outdoors," he says. "I've seen in the past, people setting up a table in front of their house, so they can be there outside distributing candy, instead of opening the door."

That way, he says, Halloweeners can reach for their favorite sweet treat – or even better, pick up a pre-packaged, individual baggie – so the homeowner doesn't have to break social distancing.

Little children in Halloween costumes

Last year, creative contraptions like chutes, catapults and cannons made headlines as a distanced way to deliver candy to eager trick-or-treaters, and would work well again this year as well, Kirkilas says.

He also knows many parents of kids ages 5 to 11 have been crossing their fingers for a pre-Halloween vaccine, but says he wouldn't count on that being a factor in a safer Halloween (so don't plan to attend a super crowded haunted house with your young kids).

"[I've been asked] 'What's the likelihood [young children can get vaccinated before Halloween]?' because that date of Oct. 26 has been thrown around as a potential date," he said (noting the date cited by The New York Times).

"It's kind of a moot point, because even if the vaccine gets emergency use authorization a week or two prior to Halloween ... you're not actually fully immune until two weeks after a second dose," he says. "So I think it's more good news for people who plan to gathering for Christmas, as opposed to anything before."

Mischief and magic might reign on All Hallow's Eve, but Kirkilas stresses that staying safe still comes first.

"Be safe out there! Wear a mask if you can't social distance, mask whether you're indoors or outdoors," he says. "Have a mask be part of your costume, and I think that will make most people safe and be able to give our kids that sense of normalcy that is Halloween."

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