Area cities to allow trick-or-treating; health agencies say play it safe

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

Health authorities are sending a message to play it safe for upcoming holiday gatherings, including Halloween.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its first Halloween-related guidance amid the pandemic in late September, including discouraging door-to-door trick-or-treating, indoor costume parties, haunted houses, tractor rides and rural fall festivals, labeling them high-risk, COVID-19 activities.

The guidance arrived on the heels of a Sept. 18 Ohio Department of Health update to Halloween guidance in which the agency urged all Ohioans to use caution and plan ahead for celebrating Halloween amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even with those agencies offering guidance, it’s important to remember that Montgomery County remains at a Red Level 3 in the Ohio Public Health Advisory system, according to John Steele, spokesman for Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery.

“That means there’s still a high level of exposure and spread, so we would encourage people to limit their activities as much as possible and that would include trick or treating,” Steele said.

That said, “there are definitely are going to be people who are going to participate” in trick or treating or other Halloween events, he said.

“I think there are going to be fewer people this year, but the thing is, no matter what you do, there’s a risk involved," Steele said. "The main thing, of course, is to continue wearing that face mask, continue to keep social distance and make sure that you’re cleaning your hands. There’s a variety of other things you can do to keep safe, too, but those are the biggies.”

Officials from Centerville, Englewood, Kettering, Miami Twp., Moraine, Springboro, Vandalia and Washington Twp. said their communities would hold trick-or-treat/Beggars Night from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31. Trotwood will hold its trick or treat from 6 to 9 p.m. Xenia officials said they would make a decision next week.

Communities say residents have the choice to participate or not.

“We are encouraging trick-or-treat by following the state guidelines and the recommendations by Public Health,” said Moraine City Manager Michael Davis.

Moraine canceled its Boo Bash event and its Bob Rosencrans Community Halloween Party, Davis said.

“The events are not allowed under the current governor restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings,” he said.

Fairborn canceled its Halloween festival and Vandalia nixed its Halloween parade, officials from both communities told this news outlet earlier this month. Huber Heights officials said altering trick-or-treat isn’t up to government.

Several communities had said their decision to allow or not allow trick-or-treating relied on guidance from the Ohio Department of Health.

ODH’s best practices echoed the CDC guidance, including recommending hayrides and haunted houses be canceled/avoided and not holding large, in person Halloween parties. Instead ODH suggested limiting limit attendance at parties to 10 or fewer, holding such an event in an outdoor area where social distancing is possible.

The agency suggested Ohioans select events or attractions that are held outdoors and allow attendees to stay in their vehicles, such as a drive-through event with displays or one that allows for social distancing.

“Avoid events that involve being crowded in a small area or coming into contact with/being touched by others,” ODH said.

It also said parents should limit the number of houses to which they take their children during trick or treating and ask their children to stay as far from treat-givers as possible.

Other suggestions included wiping off candy wrappers with sanitizing wipes when returning home, allowing children to eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid homemade treats made by strangers.

ODH also suggested Ohioans reach out to neighbors to discuss ways to ensure 6-foot social distancing, how candy can most safely be distributed, and the need for face coverings.

Staff writers Nick Blizzard, Lawrence Budd, India Duke and Bonnie Meibers contributed to this report.

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