Halloween isn’t canceled

Holiday. But it’s definitely going to look a little different this year, with fewer trick-or-treaters, more candy left outside to grab-and-go, and lots of (non-Halloween) masks.

Vernon /
23 Oct 2020 | 01:10

“Have a safe Halloween” has a whole new meaning in 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treats as high-risk for spreading COVID-19.

But states and local municipalities haven’t canceled or banned the tradition. Instead, they’re suggesting alternatives, such as at-home scavenger hunts and pumpkin carving. They’re also providing trick-or-treating guidelines to increase safety: reminding everyone to wear face coverings, keep their groups limited to household members, and trick-or-treat outside.

For most households, Halloween is still on.

In a survey of over 200 readers:

● 88% said they’d be trick-or-treating or giving out candy this year. 12% are not participating.

● 59% of those giving out candy plan to do so in person, while 41% plan to put out a bowl or individual, spaced-out bags of candy.

The CDC recommends the latter option, with spaced-out goodie bags, as a safer alternative. But one-way trick-or-treating is still categorized as a “moderate” risk activity, and those preparing goodie bags are encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before doing so.

Proceeding with caution

Local towns are moving forward with optimistic caution this Halloween.

“I don’t want to cancel it, I don’t think it’s fair,” said Michael Nuzzolese, the mayor of Goshen, N.Y. “Is it quasi-dangerous? Yes.”

Murray Avenue and its surrounding streets in the village of Goshen see upward of 1,500 trick-or-treaters each year.

“As far as patrolling for social distancing, I mean, that would be impossible,” said Nuzzolese. “Murray is definitely a hot spot. But when you really think about it, there’s nothing you can do.”

Instead, he hopes residents will continue to take precautions and be respectful of one another. He also thinks fewer trick-or-treaters will be out or heading to historically busy streets.

“I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “People have been really, really courteous and respectful. It’s one night, a couple of hours for the kids, and hopefully everybody’s going to be on their best behavior. Hopefully, God-willing, nothing will happen.”

Neighbors helping neighbors

Some neighborhoods are crafting an action plan. Sónia Rybicki of Stanhope, N.J., is putting out a big bottle of hand sanitizer with a sign telling kids to use some before taking candy. Many of the houses on her block are doing the same, she said.

Andrea Cottrell of Vernon, N.J., reached out to her neighbors before deciding whether to take her kids, ages 5 and 4, out on Halloween. Normally, they’d be going to one of the townhouse communities to trick-or-treat, but this year they’re sticking to the streets surrounding their home.

“We talked to everybody else in the neighborhood, and the fact that everybody else is going to be wearing masks, that everyone’s going to be outside, doing the socially distant thing — everybody talking about that made me feel so much more comfortable saying, ‘Okay, we can go ahead and do that too.’”

And while she’s talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood, she is worried about homeowners not wearing masks while handing out candy.

“I am kind of concerned,” Cottrell said. “My kids are going to have masks on, and we’re going to have masks on. What are we going to do if we walk up to a house and knock on the door, and the person doesn’t have a mask on?” If it happens more than once, “We might just say, ‘You know what, we’ve had enough,’ and go home.’”

Megan Rivelli usually heads into the village of Warwick, N.Y., to trick-or-treat. But this year, her family and many of the families on her block are staying in the neighborhood.

“It’s because of the CDC recommendation, it doesn’t seem worth it go into town,” said Rivelli.

Instead, the homes are banding together to make the experience special – such as decorating and making the block feel like an outdoor haunted house. They’re setting up a table outside at the end of the road for kids to get donuts and apple cider. She thinks there will be a mix of masked and non-masked children and adults participating.

Changing things up

Other than a visit from her twin grandsons, Susan Kroger of Milford, Pa., is passing on Halloween this year.

“I usually dress up, I usually go out with them, I usually make quite a to-do of it, and we’re not going to this year because of Covid,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a good time to go from door-to-door, taking candy from people. I just don’t this year.”

Instead, Kroger’s eight-year-old grandkids are just visiting close family, grandparents, and an aunt to show off their costumes and get some candy.

In lieu of trick-or-treating, Bella Rehberg of Chester, N.Y., turned her backyard into a graveyard last weekend, putting up Styrofoam gravestones and hiding candy throughout. Her son, nine-year-old Issac, invited his best friend over. Decked out in their costumes, the kids were given lanterns to hunt for candy in the “graveyard” after dark.

“They really did enjoy it,” said Rehberg.

And Issac isn’t too bummed about missing out on real trick-or-treating this year.

“My son said that as long as he gets candy, he’s okay with not actually going.”

HALLOWEEN DO’S AND DON’TS
The following guidelines are provided by the health departments of New York and New Jersey and by Milford Borough in Pennsylvania:
Treat-or-treating
Trick-or-treat only with your household group.
Stay socially distanced from those not living in your household.
Take candy only when it’s in individually sealed wrappers or baggies, available grab-and-go, or placed separately from other candies. Kids should pick up their treats without touching the candy another child will take.
All trick-or-treaters over age two must wear masks if they are medically able to tolerate one. Most Halloween masks do not provide sufficient protection.
Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before, during, and after all Halloween activities.
Only pick up commercially wrapped, sealed treats.
Don’t trick-or-treat if you are sick, live with someone who is sick, have been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days, are under isolation or quarantine, or have traveled internationally or to a state affected by your state’s travel advisory in the last 14 days.
Skip houses where there’s crowding.
Don’t trick-or-treat indoors unless in your own house with family members.
Avoid crowding in elevators, hallways, or stairwells.
When giving out treats:
Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
Give treats outdoors: Set up a grab-and-go station supplied with individually packaged treats at least six feet from your door, such as the end of a driveway or edge of a yard.
Don’t leave out candy if you are sick, live with someone who is sick, have been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days, are under isolation or quarantine, or have traveled internationally or to a state affected by your state’s travel advisory in the last 14 days.
Consider coordinating with neighbors to develop a system, such as signs or on/off porch lights, to distinguish participating from non-participating houses.
Design events in a long line, rather than a circle, to discourage crowding.
Consider having assigned times or multiple shifts to minimize crowding.
Consider individual nonfood “treats” to avoid the sharing of food.
Leave out hand sanitizer for your treat-or-treaters to use.
Only give out commercially wrapped, sealed treats.
Outdoor trunk-or-treating:
Limit the number of participating cars to keep safe distances and minimize crowds.
Provide sufficient space per car to avoid crowding.
Wear a face mask. Costume masks are not an acceptable substitute but can be supplemented with a cloth or disposable mask.
Candy should be commercially packaged and non-perishable.
Practice hand hygiene before the event, after touching objects such as wrapped, candy, and after the event.
Halloween parties:
Avoid large parties, whether indoors or out.
Enjoy virtual celebrations or socially distanced activities outdoors as much as possible.
Skip in-person celebrations or activities if there are a high number of cases in your area.
Do not participate in activities that require close contact or shared items, such as bobbing for apples.
For more information, visit health.ny.gov, nj.gov/health, or milfordboro.org.
“We talked to everybody else in the neighborhood, and the fact that everybody else is going to be wearing masks, that everyone’s going to be outside, doing the socially distant thing — everybody talking about that made me feel so much more comfortable saying, ‘Okay, we can go ahead and do that too.’” —Andrea Cottrell, Vernon, N.J.