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Boston releases coronavirus safety guidelines for trick-or-treating this Halloween

"We're asking people to take the extra precautions."

The Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston Public Garden dressed in Halloween costumes last year. John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe

Unlike some fellow Massachusetts cities with high COVID-19 rates, Boston isn’t banning trick-or-treating this Halloween.

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But city officials are urging residents to take “extra precautions” however they celebrate the holiday, amid increasing concerns about rising coronavirus levels across the state this fall. Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston Public Health Commission released new guidance Tuesday morning that asks residents to trick-or-treat only with immediate family members and avoid direct contact with individuals passing out candy, in addition to following general COVID-19 safety measures like social distancing and wearing a proper face covering.

The guidelines also recommend that households set up an outdoor station with individually wrapped goodie bags for trick-or-treaters, as opposed to handing out candy face to face.

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“Halloween is one of the best nights, and what’s most important this year is that any person participating in activities does so in a way that is safe for not only themselves, but also their neighbors and community,” Walsh said in a statement. “We’re asking people to take the extra precautions that are necessary this year, including avoiding direct contact with trick-or-treaters, wearing masks at all times, washing hands before eating any treats, and avoiding attending or hosting gatherings.”

Both trick-or-treaters and people at home should wash or sanitize their hands before and after handling candy, according to the guidelines. And everyone participating in the festivities should wear a face covering, which means one of the cloth masks that have been recommended by health experts.

“A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth or paper mask,” the guidelines say. “Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it could make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.”

Boston’s guidelines come after Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration issued similar statewide Halloween safety tips earlier this month.

They also aren’t solely aimed at trick-or-treating. Like the governor, the BPHC is urging adults not to participate in gatherings or parties on Halloween, which experts say have the highest super-spreading risk. Instead, officials suggested lower-risk Halloween alternatives, such as a virtual costumer party, family movie night, or scavenger hunt.

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The guidelines also note that all Halloween celebrations remain subject to statewide gathering limits. For all cities and towns in Massachusetts, that means private indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people and private outdoor gatherings are capped at 50 people. For higher-risk communities like Boston, that also means that outdoor gatherings at event venues and in other public settings are limited to 50 people.

Read Boston’s guidelines for Halloween in their entirety below:

Tips for safe trick-or-treating:
  • Trick-or-treat only with immediate family members.
  • Avoid direct contact with individuals passing out candy.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
  • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people.
Tips to safely prepare for trick-or-treaters:
  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Set up a station outdoors with individually wrapped goodie bags for trick-or-treaters.
  • Wear a mask. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
BPHC health officials encourage families to find safer, alternative or virtual ways to have fun this season. The safest celebrations involve people from your household, are outdoors, allow for social distancing and other safety measures. In addition, BPHC is urging adults not to participate in gatherings or parties on Halloween.
Halloween activities without risk:
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins
  • Decorating your home
  • A virtual Halloween costume contest
  • A family Halloween movie night
  • A trick-or-treat scavenger hunt at home
  • A Halloween neighborhood scavenger hunt from a distance
Halloween activities with risk:
  • Traditional trick-or-treating
  • Trunk-or-treat events
  • Haunted houses
  • Hayrides or tractor rides
  • Fall festivals
  • Halloween parties or celebrations
Any Halloween activities should comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines and participants should limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by following these safety tips:
  • Wear a face covering. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth or paper mask. Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it could make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • Stay at least six feet apart.
  • Avoid large parties or gatherings.
  • Avoid crowded areas.
  • Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating candy.
  • Avoid touching your face.
Keep in mind, if any Halloween activities may lead to screaming, make sure everyone is wearing a face covering and staying more than six feet apart. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
If residents may have COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home and do not participate in in-person Halloween festivities. Residents who may have COVID-19, who are not feeling well, or have been exposed to the virus should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.
As a reminder, any Halloween activities are subject to the current gathering size limits set by the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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