Linda Conrad Datavs is ready for trick-or-treaters with a socially distanced candy chute set up at her Richmond home. Photo courtesy of Linda Conrad Datavs

BRUNSWICK — To ensure witches and ghosts are the scariest things in residents’ homes this Halloween, Brunswick town officials are asking families to follow health and safety precautions while trick-or-treating to present the spread of coronavirus. 

While the town typically does not regulate Halloween activities beyond hosting the annual Goblins Parade, this year the town council opted to designate trick-or-treat hours as 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31. 

According to a proclamation passed unanimously on Monday, residents who will be distributing treats are encouraged to avoid person-to-person contact and anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 or has any symptoms should not give out candy or go door to door. Participating households are encouraged to turn on their porch or front lights. 

Traditional trick-or-treating is considered “higher risk” by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor costume parties and haunted houses, where people may be crowded together and screaming, are also high risk. 

However, there are ways, according to the Maine CDC, to celebrate Halloween with only “moderate” risk, including one-way or socially distanced trick-or-treating where candy is left out or lined up for kids to pick up without touching anyone else. 

Small, outdoor costume parades where ghosts, fairies and monsters are spaced more than six feet apart are also considered “moderate,” as are outdoor, masked and distanced parties. 

State officials caution that a Halloween mask is not a substitute for a cloth face covering, and wearing another mask over a face covering can be dangerous as it can restrict breathing. Instead, they recommend using a Halloween-themed cloth face covering. 

Christopher Watkinson, town councilor, said the public should not view the proclamation as the council taking a stance on trick-or-treating one way or the other, but instead as an opportunity to give a recommendation to the public about being responsible and safe. 

“Many are going to be trick-or-treating regardless,” he said. 

Council Chair John Perreault agreed and said “there ain’t no way in heck we’re going to cancel Halloween.”

Families need to be safe, wear masks, and even though it’s hard, maybe take the candy away for a few days to make sure any germs on the surface die, he said, adding that people should only go out if they feel safe.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, has not officially said whether he recommends trick-or-treaters, but said during a briefing Oct. 8 that his main concern is that trick-or-treaters and candy givers could come in contact with enough people and enough areas to contract “a cumulative dose of the virus large enough to cause COVID-19,” according to the Portland Press Herald. 

He also said people should see what the conditions are in the days leading up Halloween and make a decision after weighing their own risk factors. 

“There is no standard one-size-fits-all for this, as with so many things in the era of COVID-19,” Shah said during the briefing. “What is your own family’s risk? There is a way Halloween can be celebrated, but it will be much different.”

Brunswick’s Goblins Parade is canceled, but Brunswick Parks and Recreation is hosting a handful of other Halloween-themed events, including a double feature drive-in movie in the parking lot on Friday, Oct. 30, showing “Hotel Transylvania” and “Ghostbusters,” an all-ages, virtual “Creepy Creatures Costume Contest,” a Halloween pumpkin decorating event and pizza party for kids ages 12 and under and the downtown family window painting contest. 

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