I have four nieces and nephews under the age of 7. So over the last few years, Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays. I get to hold their little hands as we walk door-to-door collecting treats. Then we warm up inside, sort the candy and eat hot dogs and baked apples. 

But we aren’t doing any of that this year. It’s just not safe. 

Of course we are tempted. I have spent most of 2020 only ever seeing them on a screen. It’s difficult. But it’s also just not worth the risk. 

And the fact that I work for a candy publication makes the idea of going a year without trick-or-treating feel almost like I’m betraying my industry. 

But I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that any Americans trick or treat this year. 

The biggest reason for that, of course, is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially classified both trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treating as “higher risk” activities

“Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the CDC says. “There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.”

I know COVID-19 has been going on for months and we could all use a break from the pandemic. Doing one “normal” thing doesn’t just feel tempting, it feels almost necessary.

Unfortunately, that’s not how viruses work. 

And in fact, many U.S. States are reporting an increase in cases. I live in Northern Illinois near the Wisconsin border, and America’s Dairyland has seen a 76 percent increase in cases over the last 14 days.

Overall, the country has seen a 13 percent increase in cases over the last 14 days, with more than 7.2 million reported now since the pandemic began. And the United States, sadly, hit the grime milestone of surpassing 200,000 deaths just a week ago. 

Meanwhile, Region 1 of Illinois, where I live, is tightening lockdown restrictions on Saturday after the area saw an increase in the test positivity rate. Experts have said we all need to be especially cautious as we head into autumn

Candy companies offer safe celebration options

Thankfully, candy companies have come through for us. They’re putting safety first, and offering so many creative alternatives to celebrate this year. And I have to tell you, I feel really proud to be part of an industry that prioritizes health and safety above raw profits. 

Yowie Group recently launched the “Halloween at Home” campaign to encourage a festive, fun and safe Halloween by putting family-time front and center. 

Rather than simply producing a limited edition Halloween treat or toy, Yowie Group is providing spooky decorations, fun games and delicious treats to turn what might have been a disappointing holiday into the most family-centric Halloween ever.

Meanwhile, Mars Wrigley has launched “Treat Town,” an app that allows users to virtually trick-or-treat for real candy credits. And American Licorice has teamed up with Goetze's Candy, Jelly Belly and Spangler to offer Halloween boxes that allow people to celebrate the holiday at home while still getting a wide variety of candy. 

Hershey has supported the Halloween and Costume Association’s interactive map illustrating the COVID-19 risk in each U.S. county. The association offers ideas for safe celebrations depending on the level of risk.

And Ferrara is working with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to launch the company’s first augmented reality (AR) experience featuring the Ghostbusters franchise, it says gives families, “new ways to enjoy their annual trick-or-treating tradition and ‘hunt’ for candy.

As for my nieces and nephews, their mom is planning to have a scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat search indoors — one of the activities specifically classified by the CDC as lower risk. And I’ll be wishing them a Happy Halloween via Facetime. 

There’s a viral song going around right now where a woman just repeats over and over, “The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.” Be warned if you click the link, it will get stuck in your head. 

Of course, maybe if more people were signing it all day, they would finally understand. Because truly, the pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.