Guidance for Private Social Gatherings


Halloween Graphic: English

Safer, Alternative Ways to Participate in Halloween

Halloween FAQ: PDF in English

Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says traditional outdoor trick or treating or trunk and treating where treats are handed to children are lower risk this year, but limiting crowds is a good idea.

Lower Risk Activitieslow_risk

These lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorate your house, apartment, or living space
  • Create a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt where children are given lists of things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Have a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Have a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Have a scavenger-hunt, trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate Risk Activitiesmed_risk 

  • Participate in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are 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)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
    • Do not leave the candy by the road as many candy ingredients are toxic to animals.
  • Have a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade 
  • Attend an outdoor costume party where protective masks are used and people can spread out        
  • Participate in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Have a trunk or treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in parking lots
  • Go to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced and people can remain more than six feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visit pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, where wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and where people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Have an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart

High Risk Activitieshigh_risk

Avoid higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Attend crowded costume parties that are held indoors
  • Go to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Go on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Use alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors
  • Travel to a fall festival with large crowds

 Keep in mind that children ages 11 and under are not eligible to be vaccinated and that only a percentage of 12- to 18 year-olds have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick or treaters.  

What If You Are Vaccinated?are_you_vaccinated

If you’re fully vaccinated, almost all interactions are quite low risk for you. But you might still want to know about others’ vaccination status to help think through how to make activities as low risk as possible for everyone, especially considering the highly contagious Delta variant. It is not a violation of HIPAA to ask someone about their vaccination status. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) restricts doctors and insurance companies from disclosing information about their patients.

Precautions such as masks, distancing and use of outdoor spaces are especially needed if you interact regularly with high-risk individuals or people who haven’t been vaccinated yet, such as children under 12 years old.

You can get practice and gain comfort in asking about vaccination status by asking friends about their vaccination status before interacting closely with them. If you learn that a close friend or family member isn’t vaccinated, consider asking why and see if you can help address their concerns. (See How Can I Talk to My Friends and Family About Vaccines)

Outside Is Always Safer

COVID-19 transmits less effectively outside due to increased air flow. Spreading out, rather than all congregating in one area, lowers the risk, especially if you are socializing with unvaccinated people. 

Remember Pedestrian Safety

If you choose to go out at night, remember:

  • Be seen! Carry glow sticks or flashlights and wear light colored clothing.
  • Always walk on sidewalks or paths. Be sure to cross the street using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Watch for cars turning or backing up.

A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. 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.

Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask. It can be dangerous if the costume mask can make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.



Graphic as a PDF in English, Spanish, Chinese

Screen Shot 2021-03-25 at 2.58.03 PMMany cases of COVID-19 have been linked to small gatherings. This video is about how to gather in a safer way in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

View the Video in English:
View the Video in Spanish:

Guidance for the Gathering


Página en español:

While we all miss a time when families and others gather together, you should be careful, particularly if gatherings include individuals at higher risk for severe illness (e.g., people over the age of 65 or who have underlying health conditions), and if there is an increasing or high number of cases in the community. If you have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been around a person with COVID-19, then do not host or participate in any in-person gatherings until you complete your isolation or quarantine period.

Guidance for Watching Your Favorite Sports Teams

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines on attending sporting events or watch parties. Attending large gatherings increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. The safest way to watch your favorite sports teams is at home with your household members. 

  1. Risk Levels
  2. Decreasing Risk
  3. Travel and Gathering
  4. Planning In-person Holiday Gatherings

virtual_meal Low Risk Level Activities:

  • Having a dinner with only people who live in your household.
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family.
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home.

 Moderate Risk Activities:

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Attending a small outdoor sports event with safety precautions in place
  • Attending a reverse parade, where spectators remain in their car and drive by floats or performers 
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing

Higher Risk Activities:

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household or with people who do not practice the 3 W’s (wear, wait, and wash)
  • Attending parades- under the current Executive Order traditional parades are prohibited mass gatherings and limited in size
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race. Reminder that mass gatherings of groups
    • Remember that any gathering of more than 10 people indoors or 50 people outdoors are prohibited statewide

Guidance for Shopping

mask As retailers prepare for the holiday season, it is important that customers also take the necessary precautions to shop safely and avoid crowded shopping opportunities that can arise. It is strongly recommended that individuals do not participate in any traditional shopping where customers gather in large groups waiting for the store to open or are in crowded stores for extended times. It is also recommended that people who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications (e.g., people over 65 years of age or with underlying chronic conditions) limit in-person shopping if possible. If you have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been around a person with COVID-19, do not conduct in-person shopping until you complete your isolation or quarantine period. 

NCDHHS encourages individuals to follow the recommended actions below and to begin shopping earlier in the season:

  1. Before You Go Shopping
  2. When You Are Out Shopping
  • Check to see if the store offers online shopping or curbside pick-up that can be used instead of in-person shopping.
  • Check to see the store hours and consider going at off-times, so there are fewer people in the store.
  • Check to see if the stores offer special hours for people with high risk for severe illness.
  • Wear a cloth face mask and bring hand sanitizer with you to the store.

Guidance for Private Social Gatherings

Any scenario in which people gather together poses a risk for COVID-19 transmission. This includes private social gatherings in North Carolina such as cookouts or holiday gatherings. This guidance is intended for hosts and guests of private gatherings. The guidance below will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities.


  1. The Basics
  2. Hosting a Social Gathering
  3. Attending a Social Gathering

The Basics

  • Do not host or attend a gathering if:
    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • You are waiting for COVID-19 test results
    • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
    • You have been told by the local health department to quarantine or isolate, or
    • You may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • When deciding how many people to invite to your gathering, consider the amount of space you have and the ability to maintain social distancing during the event.
  • People at high risk of complications for COVID-19 (e.g., people over 65 years of age or with underlying chronic conditions) should avoid social gatherings. If they do attend, ensure the 3Ws are practiced.
  • Consider hosting virtual events or having a virtual option for individuals that are higher risk to join safely from their home.
  • Outdoor activities are preferred over indoor because it is easier to stay apart and there is more wind and air to help reduce the spread of the virus. However, even in outdoor settings, the more people that interact increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Practice the 3 Ws (Wear, Wait, Wash) during the event: Wear a face covering, Wait six feet apart from others, and Wash your hands regularly.
  • Anyone who develops COVID-19 within 48 hours after attending a gathering should notify other attendees as soon as possible regarding the potential exposure.