Town officials are encouraging residents to avoid traditional Halloween activities this season, but trick-or-treating is still being approved as long as Arlington residents are being responsible when it comes to limiting contact between residents and trick-or-treaters.
Following guidelines given out by the CDC, Arlington officials issued a press release Thursday, Oct. 15 advising residents to refrain from handing out treats at their doors, and instead, choose an alternative such as making individual goodie bags and placing them at the end of a walkway or driveway.
“We want everyone to be safe this Halloween,” Arlington Director of Health & Human Services Christine Bongiorno said. “Larger social gatherings increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission. We caution residents to avoid large indoor parties and haunted houses, and avoid other high-risk activities. The CDC has provided some creative, lower risk alternatives to celebrate a fun and safe Halloween.”
The press release broke down different Halloween activities into three different risk categories; high, moderate and low. Events such as door-to-door trick or treating, indoor crowded parties, haunted houses and other crowded events are considered high risk, while alternative trick-or-treating with no close contact, small outdoor costume parties or parades and small family events are considered moderate and low risk.
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Kathleen Bodie stated that a safe and responsible Halloween is imperative to keeping the public schools safe for students.
“For the continuation of in-person classes to be successful we must continue to remain vigilant about following safety protocols and recommendations from public health officials and resist the urge to gather in large groups,” Bodie stated. “Halloween, birthdays, and after school gatherings of larger groups all raise the risk of seeing more positive cases of COVID-19 in Arlington.”
All Halloween gatherings are subject to the normal pandemic limits on gatherings in Arlington, no more than 25 persons indoors or 50 people outdoors. The press release also stated that wearing a Halloween mask does not replace wearing a regular cloth mask, unless the Halloween mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric and covers both the mouth and nose.
Some Massachusetts towns, such as Leicester and Longmeadow, have canceled trick-or-treating in the community altogether, but Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that he did not believe that the town has the authority to cancel Halloween.
“Our take is that Halloween itself is not a town-sponsored event, so the town does not have the authority to cancel it or alter it in any way. The best we can do is issue precautions,” Chapdelaine said. “Last year the weather forecast was quite bad for Halloween, and we were asked about potentially postponing it, but ultimately we only said that people should be cautious about going out because we don’t have the authority to change Halloween. This year the situation is much more dire, but we stand by our belief that we cannot alter the event.”
Chapdelaine also said that most of the surrounding communities have issued a similar guidance around Halloween.
“It was discussed internally that if all of our neighbors canceled Halloween outright, Arlington would become a hot spot for people from out of town to come in and trick or treat, which isn’t something that we want happening during the pandemic. Having spoken with some of our neighboring town managers, it looks like they will be doing something similar as Arlington,” Chapdelaine said.
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