Decorating homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations is OK with the Shelby County Health Department but door-to-door candy collecting is not. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Previous holiday celebrations in Shelby County this year have ended with alarming spikes in COVID-19 cases.

New hotspots and clusters have spawned from reveling at bars, private homes and large gatherings of people, who are neither using masks nor social distancing.

To head off an already worsening surge of cases and hospitalizations, the Shelby County Health Department has offered recommendations and tips for a safer holiday.

“We don’t condone traditional trick-or-treat activities this year,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, health department medical director.

“There should be no door-to-door candy collecting at all, even at close neighbors. But we encourage adherence to our guidelines and those issued by the CDC.”

As Shelby County families are planning for the upcoming holiday season over the next two months, the health department is releasing information based upon guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to take part in celebrations in ways that reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

First, remember large gatherings and events are prohibited under the current Health Directive. These include: festivals, fairs, parades, large-scale sporting events and large-scale community events unless a site-specific plan for the event has been approved.

For Halloween, the health department advises:

  1. Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  2. Give out treats outdoors, if possible. Don’t hand them out. Set up a station with individually-bagged treats for kids to pick up.
  3. Wash hands before handling treats.
  4. Wear a mask.
  5. “Trunk-or-treat,” where children go from car to car instead of door to door to receive treats, poses similar risks to children, if they do not maintain recommended social distancing.

Safer alternatives:

Some safer alternatives include:

* Online parties/contests (i.e. costume or pumpkin carving);

* Drive-by events, including events where individual participants remain in their vehicles.

* Halloween movie nights at drive-in theaters that meet the requirements of the current Health Directive.

* Decorating homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations.

* Remember, outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.

Personal protection measures:

  • If you are sick or have been in contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19, stay home and away from others and get tested.
  • Correctly wear a cloth facial covering to prevent disease spread. Wear a cloth mask with two or more layers over the nose and mouth and secure it under the chin.
  • Avoid confined spaces – Actively avoid indoor spaces that don’t allow for easy distancing of at least six feet between yourself and others.
  • Avoid close contact – Stay at least six feet away from all other people who are not part of your own household, especially when talking, eating and drinking.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  • Clean frequently touched items regularly.

If you have questions about COVID-19, call the Shelby County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline at 901-222-6275. The hotline is open seven days per week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, calls are returned as soon as possible the next day.

The following is a partial list of Shelby County-area events and, which are adhering to health department holiday guidelines:

– Wicked Ways Haunted House (select days through Nov. 7). This house is not for children. Proceeds benefit St. Jude. Go to the website for ticket info and hours.

– Jones Orchard Shadowlands of Fear (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays in October.)

– HauntedWeb of Horrors (October 29 – Nov. 1), 2665 S. Perkins Rd. Tickets can be purchased online.

– Priddy Farms Pumpkin Patch, 4595 N. Germantown Rd., for pumpkins, a petting zoo and more. Open every day.

– Second Baptist Church Pumpkin Patch, 4680 Walnut Grove, this fall.

– Zoo Boo, Memphis Zoo (Oct. 29-31). Candy stations, hay rides, mazes, magic shows and more. No animals besides the Herpatarium, Aquarium and Animals of the Night exhibits.

– Movies at the Mallory-Neely House (October 29) in Victorian Village. The October 29th movie is “The Lodger.”

– Halloweek of Fun at the Children’s Museum of Memphis (October 24-31)

– Candy Crawl at Oak Court Mall (October 26-30). Kids can get a bag of treats and toys at the mall during scheduled times.

– Drive-In Movie: “The Birds” at Shelby Farms Park (Oct. 30). It’s pre-registration only online.

– Happy Halloween Scavenger Hunt at Fire Museum of Memphis (Oct. 31).

For kids from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Pre-register online.

– Memphis Reggae Halloween at Brinson’s Downtown (Oct. 31). An open-air, social-distanced, family-friendly party from 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Food and drinks will be available. (Curbside pickup for takeout is available).

– Halloween Full Moon Kayaking at Mud Island Boat Ramp (Oct. 31).

Kayak Memphis hosts a full moon kayaking paddle for experienced paddlers only. Check in is at 5:30 p.m., sunset at 6 p.m., and rentals are good until 7 p.m. Purchase tickets, pre-register and read all the details in the FB event.

– Drive-In Movie: “Black Panther” at Shelby Farms Park (Oct. 31). It’s pre-registration only; no tickets available on site.

– Halloween Movie Night at Sunset Cinema at Tiger Lane (Oct. 31) will screen “Hocus Pocus” and “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” starting at 6:30 p.m. Visit 901sunsetcinema.com for tickets and more information.

– Marcella Simien & Her Lovers at Railgarten (Oct. 31). Music starts at 6:30 p.m.

– Hallowdaze Trunk or Treat at Theatre Memphis (Oct. 31). Bring the kids and costumes for this socially-distanced trunk or treat in the parking lot.

– Kroctober Fall Fun Bash Drive-Thru at the Kroc Center (Oct. 31) between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a free, safe and socially-distanced trick-or-treat goodie bag pickup.