No doubt there’s a trick to doing Halloween right this year — but it doesn’t mean it can’t be a treat all the same.

With cases of COVID-19 surging throughout the country, many parents and local officials understandably are nervous about allowing kids to hit neighborhoods in large numbers, fearing that while moving from house to house in search of candy they may help spread the virus.

But there’s no reason the Oct. 31 holiday can’t be celebrated — as long as everyone does their best to be careful, and take it upon themselves to adopt a few tweaks.

Of course, with Maine as one of two states where COVID-19 isn’t spreading out of control, trick-or-treaters will have an easier time staying safe. Still, Mainers have to take precautions, based on the status of the virus in their community, and in some degree on their own particular circumstances.

State and federal public health officials say traditional trick-or-treating carries a high risk because of all the face-to-face contact. Indoors halloween parties, big parades and haunted houses are also difficult to hold safely.

But there are other options. Those officials say that as long as everyone stays outside and in small groups and wears a cloth mask — without a costume mask over it, as that can be dangerous — the risk is moderate.

They also suggest that candy isn’t handed directly to kids. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends leaving individually bagged treats on a table or steps near the front door.

Some people are getting more creative. The Portland Press Herald talked to a Cumberland woman who has fashioned a chute out of Clorox wipe containers and duct tape, allowing her to send candy to trick-or-treaters 10 feet away. Others are using PVC pipe for the same purpose.

With these adaptations, and a little forethought and a certain level of responsibility, it seems that trick-or-treating can be undertaken safely.

Still, risk cannot be eliminated altogether. People with at-risk family members or in communities with higher levels of virus transmission may want to think twice about how intensely they celebrate Halloween this year — at halloween2020.org, people can find out what kinds of activities fit the virus situation in their community. Maybe they limit their visits to a few neighbors, friends or family members, or they participate in one of the in-car celebrations happening in Maine.

There are also a number of activities that can be done at home with family or safely distanced outdoors — pumpkin carving comes to mind — that may be preferable to more vulnerable or risk averse families.

It should be noted that many public health experts have noted that something close to a normal Halloween would be good for kids who have had to give up so much and weather so much disappointment and uncertainty over the last seven months.

Maine is such a good position relative to the virus because Mainers for the most part have taken public health seriously. We have to continue to be smart about it by applying what has been learned about COVID-19 and how it spreads.

That means that some traditions — such as large family gatherings indoors for Thanksgiving and Christmas — may remain out of reach this year.

But it also means that Maine kids can have something close to a normal Halloween, as long as we all do our part to keep it as safe as possible.


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