Trick-or-treating isn’t canceled in the Richmond area and surrounding counties this year, but it’s not recommended, at least by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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The CDC released Halloween guidelines last month, saying that traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is high risk and should be avoided. The Virginia Department of Health is also discouraging trick-or-treating this year and deems the activity high risk.
Localities in at least 37 states have canceled various Halloween events, including parades in Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, Massachusetts and New York, but trick-or-treating has largely been left alone, though discouraged in many places. In the Richmond area, most localities are leaving trick-or-treating decisions up to individuals.
“Henrico County trusts the judgment of its residents and does not regulate Halloween,” said Ben Sheppard, a spokesperson for the county. “Residents are encouraged to review CDC guidelines and participate in Halloween-related activities based on their personal level of comfort.”
In Chesterfield County, officials issued a similar statement, asking residents to use their best judgment in regard to trick-or-treating and to use proper safety protocols, including social distancing, wearing a facial covering and frequent hand washing.
Experts stress that Halloween masks do not offer the same protection as face masks and shouldn’t be used as a replacement.
In Hanover County, officials said they are monitoring and evaluating CDC and Health Department recommendations but have not made any statements regarding Halloween trick-or-treating this year.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney also stated that trick-or-treating isn’t canceled in the city, although he recommends residents to use their best judgement and stay at home.
“This Halloween will not be like Halloweens of the past. This is Halloween during a pandemic,” Stoney said at a scheduled COVID-19 briefing two weeks ago. “The VDH has published guidance for Halloween events and I expect everyone in our city to act in accordance with those guidelines.”
He urged residents to “put safety first” and said, “I think it will be best to stay home on Halloween. That’s what I’ll be doing.”
Halloween on Hanover, the popular trick-or-treating event in the Fan District that typically draws 10,000 to 20,000 people, is canceled this year. Trick-or-treating on West Avenue and in the Carver neighborhood have also been canceled, Stoney said.
According to the CDC, going to indoor haunted houses and going on hay rides is also considered high risk.
Many local pumpkin patches like Ashland Berry Farm and Gallmeyer Farms, however, have been hosting their traditional Halloween activities such as haunted houses and hayrides, although guests are encouraged to wear masks.
“Outdoors is best, but you do want to keep away from crowds,” said Richard Wenzel, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.
With trick-or-treating, hay rides and pumpkin patches, he said, try to avoid clustering and to always keep 6 to 10 feet away from other people. With trick-or-treating especially, avoid clustering at one person’s house.
“You don’t know if you’ll be coming into contact with people who might be infected at the household,” Wenzel said.
VDH recommends not trick-or-treating in large groups or outside your own neighborhood, and not holding indoor haunted houses or other large Halloween parties.
If you do decide to go trick-or-treating, Wenzel said, “Keep away from crowds, wear a face mask, and wash your hands often. If you have a child who might be at greater risk of complications [from COVID-19], you have to ask yourself, ‘Do I really want the risk?’ ”
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