Oswego County releases Halloween guidelines

OSWEGO, NY – Halloween is another fall tradition affected by the coronavirus. The haunted holiday will go on as scheduled; however, public health officials remind residents to take some precautions to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

“The CDC recently issued guidelines to help families and communities celebrate the upcoming holiday safely,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “Many of the traditional Halloween activities that people participate in, such as door-to-door trick-or-treating and indoor costume parties, are considered high-risk; meaning that they could easily spread the virus and lead to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.”

Instead, Huang recommends that people follow the CDC guidelines and take part in alternative activities, such as a virtual costume contest or a drive-through car parade, that have a lower risk of spreading infections.

Other low risk activities include:
– Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household.
– Carving or decorating pumpkins with neighbors or friends at a safe distance outside.
– Having an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt.
– Having a Halloween movie night with members of your household.
– Decorating your living space or house with Halloween decorations.
– Driving or walking through the neighborhood to admire Halloween decorations from a safe distance.

The Oswego County Health Department advises residents to stay home and don’t host or participate in Halloween activities if they are feeling sick or are under quarantine orders.

“Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is waiting for test results, or has
symptoms of the virus or may have been exposed to someone who has it in the last 14 days, or is at an increased risk of severe illness from the disease, should stay home and not participate in in-person holiday celebrations,” said Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator for the Oswego County Health Department.

She added, “Don’t forget that gatherings of 50 people or more are still prohibited.”
All standard COVID-19 protocols are also recommended. They include frequent
handwashing, maintaining a social distance of six feet and wearing a face covering.

“A Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” said Oldenburg.
“A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the nose and mouth and doesn’t leave gaps around the face. Most importantly, people should not wear a costume mask over or under a protective cloth mask because it’s dangerous. Layering masks can make it very difficult to breathe. People should consider wearing a Halloween-themed cloth face mask instead.”

According to the CDC, moderate-risk activities include participating in one-way trick-or-treating, where individually wrapped goodie bags are set out at the edge of the driveway or yard for children to grab and go; visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people are using hand sanitizer, wearing masks and social distancing; or attending an outdoor costume party where people are face masking and social distancing.

Attending indoor haunted house attractions or costume parties where people are likely to be crowded together; possibly using alcohol or drugs – which cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors; or screaming, singing and shouting – all of which have a greater risk of spreading the respiratory virus; are among some of the high risk activities public health officials are advising people to avoid.

“It’s important for parents to talk to their children about safety,” said Huang. “This has been a difficult year and they are looking forward to their Halloween activities. Especially now, during these trying times, celebrating a holiday helps people of all ages feel a sense of normalcy. However, we still must do so safely and responsibly. This is a great opportunity for families to think about alternative ways to celebrate and start new holiday traditions.”

For more information about the holiday guidelines, visit the CDC’s website at

Additional questions can be directed to the Oswego County Health Department COVID-19 hotline at 315-349-3330 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For information about emotional supports, visit the Oswego County Department of Social Services Division of Mental Hygiene at www.oswegocounty.com/mentalhygiene.

Under New York State Public Health Law, the Oswego County Health Department is the sole local public health authority regarding the COVID-19 pandemic response over all persons and entities within the County of Oswego. The Oswego County Health Department works closely with New York State Department of Health regarding COVID-19 monitoring, response and reporting.