With Halloween fast approaching, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has issued guidance for those celebrating to do so without the risk of being infected with COVID-19.
The governor had previously said he would not deter people from trick-or-treating this year, but after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deemed the activity “high-risk” last month, Cuomo, in concert with the state Department of Health, issued guidelines Tuesday to be followed for those celebrating Halloween.
The guidelines are recommended, not mandatory.
There are low- and moderate-risk Halloween activities, such as carving pumpkins (low risk) and one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped treat bags are lined up in a grab-and-go fashion (moderate risk), according to the CDC.
But there are various Halloween traditions the CDC has deemed high risk, and officials say these activities should be avoided to prevent further spread of the virus.
High-risk activities include traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door; trunk-or-treat events where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in parking lots; attending crowded costume parties held indoors; indoor haunted houses where people may be crowded together and screaming; hayrides or tractor rides with people who aren’t in your household; using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors; and traveling to a rural fall festival not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.
“I’m kind of one of those realists — there are going to be people who want to trick-or-treat,” said Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb. “If you are going out you need to stay with your group, try not to necessarily interact with other folks as you go about your business. If you’re passing out candy, I think a lot of people are putting it out on a table in their yard or on their step.”
Mabb offered more advice for local families.
“Avoid large clusters of people,” he said. “You need to rethink that social part of Halloween. If it’s your desire to go out and trick-or-treat, just rethink it a little bit.”
There are many safety measures that can be taken on Halloween, Mabb added. He is more concerned about a possible COVID spike from activities on Thanksgiving rather than Halloween because for many people, Halloween is a mostly outdoors holiday, Mabb said.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s office will be participating in trunk-or-treating with a number of groups and organizations throughout the county. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Louis Bray said deputies will be passing out candy at drive-thru trunk-or-treat events put on throughout the county.
The Chatham Fire Department is sponsoring a Halloween Drive-Thru Trick-or-Treat at the Columbia County Fairgrounds starting at 5 p.m. on Halloween.
In Greene County, the Rotary Club of Greenville will be hosting a trunk-or-treat event from 3-5:30 p.m. on Halloween, Oct. 31, at the GNH parking lot on Route 32.
New Baltimore fire companies are hosting trunk-or-treating, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger said Friday. Linger represents New Baltimore on the Legislature.
The state Department of Health recommends celebrating the holiday indoors with those who live in your household. But for those who still wish to participate in traditional Halloween activities such as door-to-door trick-or-treating, the department has a list of recommended guidelines.
Celebrating virtually or with outdoor, socially distanced activities, is recommended. If there are a high number of confirmed COVID cases in your area, it is important to skip any in-person gatherings altogether, according to the department.
For those choosing to go trick-or-treating, it’s recommended to do so only with those who live in your household. Remain socially distanced from those who don’t live in your household.
For those giving out treats or candy, it is recommended you avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters. Treats should be given outdoors. But in order to limit contact, the recommendation is to set up a station with individually bagged or packaged treats for children to take on their own. If you are setting up a station, it should be set up 6 feet from your front door.
Everyone over the age of 2 who is able to medically tolerate a face mask must wear one, according to the department. Most Halloween masks are not sufficient to protect against the virus, according to the department.
“With the exception of this being Halloween, these guidelines are really no different from any of the other guidelines we’ve received,” Linger said.
The recommendations suggest incorporating your face covering into your Halloween costume, and face coverings should be made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose.
The recommendations also outline various “don’ts” when it comes to trick-or-treating this year — do not participate in traditional trick-or-treating where candy is handed out at the door and social distancing cannot be achieved. Trick-or-treaters also should not take candy directly from someone’s hand or from a bowl.
Groups should avoid trick-or-treating on crowded streets, and should not trick-or-treat indoors.
“Halloween celebrations and activities, including trick-or-treating, can be filled with fun, but must be done in a safe way to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” according to state guidelines.