Iowa City not canceling trick-or-treating but urges safety for pandemic Halloween

Low-risk Halloween activities
Low-risk Halloween activities

Should kids go trick-or-treating in a pandemic? The answer from public health officials is maybe — with the right safety measures are in place.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released safe Halloween guidelines last week that listed “traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door” a “high risk” activity due to the coronavirus.

However, it said “moderate risk” would be trick-or-treating with “individually wrapped goodie bags 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).”

Local municipalities have started weighing in. Iowa City announced Tuesday it will celebrate its official trick-or-treat night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Halloween, Oct. 31. However, the city released guidance from Johnson County Public Health.

People handing out treats should maintain social distancing, and “ask trick-or-treaters to hold up their bucket or bags while you gently toss a treat their way,” the guidance says.

Another idea follows the CDC and recommends setting out individual bags or cups on a table in the yard or driveway for contactless pick up, while waving from a distance. People could maintain distance by “creating a well-lit barrier line of pumpkins or other decorations between you and the trick-or-treaters,” the guidance says.

People should not participate if they have been sick or in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or is symptomatic. Both parties should wear masks over their mouth and nose — and not count on Halloween masks to offer appropriate protection. The CDC says, “A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.”


Trick-or-treaters should maintain 6 feet of distance from people outside their household, frequently use hand sanitizer, and plan their route to avoid busy streets.

Johnson County Public Health has a poster available that homes can print and display to let trick-or-treaters know they are following safety guidelines. It is available along with more tips at

The Johnson County Public Health Department also offered ideas for safe alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating, including creating a festive yard display; hosting an online costume or pumpkin carving party; hosting a small, outdoor costume party with a limited number of attendees, remaining 6 feet apart and wearing masks at all times; and holding a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt, with your household members in or around your home.

The city will host a socially distance “Halloween at the Drive-In,” from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 30, at the Mercer Park parking lot, with a double feature of Halloween movies to be presented. More details will be announced later.

The Iowa City Public Library will host virtual seasonal craft events, including: “Mosaic Pumpkins,” at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 and “Day of the Dead Skeleton Puppet” at 2 p.m. Oct. 25. Registration for both events is required at

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How are you planning a safe Halloween?

If you’re coming up with creative ways to hand out candy or trick-or-treat, reporter Alison Gowans wants to talk to you. Send her a message at (319) 398-8339 or email

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