CHATHAM – Like everything else during the pandemic, Halloween is not likely to be the same this year and may, for some people, be a bit more spooky due to the coronavirus. While conceding that popular Halloween neighborhoods will probably go ahead and hold celebrations, officials are considering a town-sponsored event as an alternative to traditional trick-or-treating.
“I'm thinking about the Elkanah neighborhood,” Selectman Cory Metters said, referring to the streets off Stony Hill Road that see 300 to 400 trick-or-treaters on a typical Halloween. Even if the town organizes its own event, it would be responsible to have public safety personnel on hand to make trick-or-treating “as safe as possible. I think we need to address that for the benefit of the neighbors, at least,” he said.
In the past, several churches and Monomoy Community Services have collected candy to help out homeowners in the neighborhood, but that's not happening this year, said Chairman Shareen Davis. She called on parents and homeowners to take personal responsibility for a safe Halloween and referred to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will be posted on the town's website.
Town Manager Jill Goldsmith met Tuesday with Theresa Malone of Monomoy Community Services, elementary school principal Robin Millen, Health and Nature Resources Director Robert Duncanson, Davis and public safety officials to discuss trick-or-treating alternatives. Many of the usual Halloween activities, such as the downtown Halloween parade and Oktoberfest, won't be happening, although some private events are in the works, such as at Christmas Joy in South Chatham, where candy will be handed out on Oct. 31. Drive-through trick-or-treating will be held at the Harwich Community Center.
Davis said the discussion centered around ways to limit too many kids going into neighborhoods.
“Kids and candy, it can get a little crazy,” she said. While there were no firm answers, ideas considered included giving out candy at Veterans Field, where trick-or-treaters could be social distanced, or drive-by trick-or-treating, perhaps at the elementary school.
Goldsmith said she would research those alternatives further, keeping the CDC and state recommendations in mind. “This is a priority and we'll try to get everything finalized by the end of the week,” she said.
The CDC and state department of public health guidelines include observing the usual COVID-19 protocols, including wearing a mask, washing hands, using sanitizer and maintaining social distance; holding virtual costume contests and pumpkin carving events; placing candy on a platter instead of a bowl; leaving hand sanitizer next to treats left outside; avoiding crowded costume parties held indoors or gatherings that exceed state limits or going to indoor haunted houses where people may be crowded together and screaming; staying home if you feel unwell or have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trick-or-treaters should wear a face mask in addition to any costume mask, according to the guidelines.
The guidelines suggest that in popular trick-or-treating neighborhoods, residents can organize one-way traffic patterns and place treats outside the home for trick-or-treaters to “grab and go.” Another way to give out candy is to slide it down a chute to maintain social distance.
Full disclosure: The writer lives in the Elkanah neighborhood.