Board of Health greenlights trick-or-treating, with precautions

Oct 14, 2020

While the Board of Health won’t stand in the way of residents trick-or-treating this Halloween, the annual candy-getting affair will look a little different than usual. 

At a virtual meeting on Oct. 14, the board discussed how families could celebrate spooky season with social distancing, masks, and handwashing, as well as limiting crowd sizes.

Public Health Director Chris Michaud noted that there are no plans from the state to issue any Halloween “rules or mandates,” but Gov. Charlie Baker is instead letting plans be approved “on a community by community basis.” 

Michaud said that since trick-or-treating happens outdoors, any opportunity for close contact would be “almost negligible” unless you’re visiting a “long lost neighbor’s house.” If that does happen, the health director suggests keeping your social distance.

“To contemplate a ban on Halloween, I think we would be overapplying the protective factor on a one day incident,” he said. 

To help with town guidelines, the board enlisted the help of Hawthorn Medical Associates’ Dr. Christian Pope. Among his recommendations include sticking to cohorts of immediate family and potentially limiting the candy grabbing for eighth graders and below.

“Let’s keep in mind what Halloween is for — it is for the children,” Pope said. “I think being strict with terminology and trick-or-treating with your household will restrict intermingling and mixing.”

He said that he would also like to see definitive hours and discouraged ringing doorbells, adding that anyone handing out candy should “do so in a way where it doesn’t involve opening a door repetitively” — that is, set out a candy basket and leave a light on.  

Board member Lynne Brodeur wondered what sort of protocols kids should follow when getting candy.

“Say I get a Snickers bar that was handed to me from somebody from a door — is there a way for me to wipe that down before my child touches it?” she asked.

Pope said that wiping the wrappers “is the least you can do” and also suggests wearing gloves as you open the candy.

“This way, you’re not touching the actual candy that’s going to be consumed,” he said. 

Ultimately, the board decided to send Pope’s recommendations to the Select Board for further review. 

“If we can do this safely, I hope we can inform the public on how to do that and have a safe and happy Halloween,” Brodeur said.