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Unless you’re Linus awaiting the Great Pumpkin, Halloween will require some changes this year

  • Halloween mask slide NH Municipal Association—Courtesy

  • There was some dancing in the street at the Halloween Howl in downtown Concord on Friday evening, October 25, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Graham Porter (left) and Ethan Broas trick or treat along Abbott Road on Gatenight in Penacook on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. concord monitor photograph

Concord Monitor
Published: 10/1/2020 9:07:09 PM
Modified: 10/1/2020 9:06:59 PM

You don’t need to worry about catching COVID-19 from wrapped candy, although as always you should avoid unwrapped candy.

Halloween costume masks won’t protect you from airborne coronavirus; wear a cloth mask for that.

There’s no way to keep out-of-towners from attending your town’s trick-or-treat event.

And if you do have neighborhood trick or treat, create one-way routes like in grocery stores to minimize families congregating at a house.

Those are among the pieces of advice for communities wrestling with how to have Halloween in the COVID-19 era that came out of an online discussion held by the New Hampshire Municipal Association.

“We have 234 municipalities, and there are about 234 different events that will happen this month,” said Natch Greyes, an attorney with the NHMA who hosted the webinar.

During the NHMA webinar, Greyes noted that the situation for Halloween is complicated by no clear legal guidance about local oversight. Various laws concerning public safety that could apply, he said, but many have not been tested in court and might not hold up.

He noted one law that allows cities “to prohibit the rolling of hoops, playing at ball or flying of kites, or any other amusement or practice having a tendency to annoy persons passing in the streets and sidewalks, or to frighten teams of horses” and others that allow public health officials to exercise their “judgement” in allowing activities.

Several of Gov. Sununu’s guidance orders for COVID-19 can help, he said, including those for road races and for fairs and festivals. These have no legal authority over towns and cities but do have legal authority over non-profits or other groups holding events.

One advantage this year is that Oct. 31 falls on a Saturday, so communities won’t have to decide between traditional Halloween night and a weekend.

Having events all over the state held on the same evening will reduce the chances that people will flock to neighboring communities on a different schedule. Avoiding dense crowds is the most important way to keep the celebration from creating a “super-spreader” event.

Some cities set parameters. Manchester, for example, says trick or treat will last from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31.

Other communities, the NHMA webinar noted, are trying new things this year to help people spread out. Auburn, for example, has set up a designated car route where children are driven from stop to stop to get candy.

In Weare, which has set trick or treat from 5 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31, the police department is sponsoring a contest to see who can come up with the most “creative and scary way” to distribute candy while staying at least 6-feet away. Candy chutes and zip lines which take candy out to the sidewalk in a box decorated like a ghost or bat are among the possibilities.

The key to safe trick-or-treating, said Sophia Johnson, health officer in the state Department of Public Health, is the same as it is for being safe doing anything else in public: distance, barriers and time. Don’t get close to other people, use barriers between yourself and them when possible, and spread things out.

One other idea came from Greyes: “Sitting alone in the pumpkin patch awaiting Great Pumpkin like Linus does it — that’s very safe.”

The entire webinar can be seen online at

In Vermont, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said last month that “people can still enjoy the holiday to a degree” by following basic coronavirus guidelines: No large gatherings or parties, he said. Children shouldn't congregate on a doorstep or porch, and some homeowners may not be comfortable being in close contact with kids by handing them candy.

“We have to abide by the 6-foot rule, we have to abide by the masking rule but there creative ways to do this,” he said, whether it be setting the candy out on a table or parents making sure their kids are not in large groups.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. 

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