by Terry Rogers
On Monday, September 28, Milford City Council voted unanimously to approve Trick or Treat on Saturday, October 31. The event will take place between the hours of 5 and 8 PM, slightly longer than in previous years in order to reduce the number of children participating at one time.
“This is probably the most important resolution you will pass tonight,” City Manager Mark Whitfield said. “We have been told by the Governor’s office that we can have Trick or Treat and as soon as we receive the guidelines, we will release them. It is a little longer than we normally approve but we think this will be well attended.”
Councilman Jason James expressed that the City needed to clearly outline the recommendations from the Governor in order to avoid spreading COVID-19.
“I know everyone wants to get out there,” Councilman James said. “I also know that children can be asymptomatic and carry it home to parents or grandparents. Believe me, I know the kids and parents want to get out there but we need to do this safely.”
There was public comment permitted during the discussion and Nina Pletcher expressed some concerns about who would enforce the guidelines. Mayor Archie Campbell stated that it would need to be the parents.
“Good luck with that,” Pletcher said. “Are they expected to wear masks? How about social distancing? One of two things is going to happen. You are going to have a bunch of kids out there and no one policing them. Or you are going to have a bunch of people participating all at once. It could be one hell of a mess.”
City Clerk Terri Hudson explained that there had been many calls to City Hall expressing a desire to hold Trick or Treat. She stated that the guidelines were coming from the Governor’s office and that the City would abide by any restrictions issued.
“I think those who do not want to participate will simply turn their lights off, particularly the elderly in the community,” Hudson said. “If the porch lights are off, people know not to go to those houses.” Pletcher asked if there was the possibility of doing a Trunk or Treat event rather than Trick or Treat. Hudson stated that there were some Trunk or Treat events planned at local churches but they are not City sponsored.
On Friday, October 2, the Governor’s office released guidelines for Trick or Treat events throughout the state. The Division of Public Health reminded Delaware residents that the virus is still active in communities and recommended wearing face coverings, physically distancing, hand washing and the avoidance of large gatherings as a way to remain safe.
“We know this is typically a fun time of year for communities and families, and we absolutely want that fun to continue,” Dr. Karol Rattay, Director of Public Health, said. “But, it is more important than ever that we do so safely and in a way that does not further increase the risk of virus transmission for ourselves, our families and our neighbors. We can still enjoy a happy and healthy Halloween this year even if it looks a little different from previous years.”
Trick or Treat poses additional risk because of the large number of hands reaching into candy bowls. Dr. Rattay advised modifying the activities to lower the risk, including wearing a cloth face covering at all times. She noted that most Halloween masks are not protective enough to protect against the virus. Another modification is to provide treats without the need for direct contact with people you do not know. Individual treat portions can be placed on the porch and residents can interact with trick or treaters from a distance of at least six feet. When talking to trick or treaters, wear a face covering. Sanitize hands in between each interaction.
The Governor’s office offered other options besides trick or treating as a way to celebrate Halloween. Children could carve pumpkins and assist in decorating the home for Halloween. A virtual costume contest using Zoom or another web conference program is another way to let children dress up and share their costumes with others. Riding in the car viewing different Halloween decorations is also a safe way to celebrate.
“Have a Halloween movie viewing marathon,” Dr. Rattay said. “Have a scavenger hunt similar to an Easter Egg hunt at home rather than going door-to-door. Host an open air, socially distanced gathering. Visit a local farm and pick your own apples or pumpkins. Be sure to choose a farm that is requiring face coverings for anyone over Kindergarten age. Attend trunk or treat events instead of going door-to-door. If you do hold a Halloween gathering, do not bob for apples.”
High-risk activities popular at Halloween are discouraged, including large indoor costume parties or indoor haunted houses unless they require face coverings. Dr. Rattay also reminded everyone that events with 250 people or more must be approved by the Department of Public Health.