By Sydney Stoller
With COVID-19 cases on the rise locally, Halloween may be even scarier this year for those who risk going door to door.
Local officials are hoping to avoid the swell of trick-or-treaters that would come from the evening’s typical festivities by promoting two major initiatives: finding safer ways to celebrate and keeping an eye out for large gatherings, especially those attended by teens that could lead coronavirus infections and school closures.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a report this month emphasizing the high risk that accompanies traditional Halloween activities including costume parties and indoor haunted houses. In lieu of these events, they recommend alternatives such as contact-free trick-or-treating (classified as moderate risk) or virtual costume contests (low risk).
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a similar pamphlet urging New Yorkers to keep track of local COVID-19 cases using the state Department of Health COVID-19 Tracker. That should be in addition to following the CDC’s guidelines,
Towns in Westchester County have devised their own plans and creative ways to safely celebrate Halloween.
The Village of Croton-on-Hudson recommended that households decide individually whether or not they would like to distribute candy to trick-or-treaters, and then display a sign created by the town expressing their wishes. The signs should read either “welcome trick-or-treaters” or “see you next year,” and are decorated with the village’s logo or festive cartoons.
In addition, the village will host a modified version of its annual Goblin Walk, a costume parade along the Hudson River. This year, in addition to prizes for the most creative costumes, the event will include masks and social distancing.
“Seven months into the pandemic, the emotional toll of social distancing is draining many people’s spirits,” said Mayor Brian Pugh. “Halloween in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson has always been an opportunity for residents to connect with family, friends and neighbors. I hope that residents will take advantage of these opportunities to safely celebrate and enjoy a Halloween that’s spooky but safe.”
North Castle residents, at the request of Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro, have taken a similar approach. They are instructed either to tie an orange ribbon around their mailboxes if they wish to give out candy or post relevant signage.
In one North Castle neighborhood, Rose Jakaj organized a socially distant festive food truck event. Ralph’s Ice Cream and Crafty’Cue, a barbeque restaurant, will park their food trucks in a cul-de-sac so that masked residents can admire each other’s costumes and enjoy their food in a socially distanced manner. To avoid crowds, the event will be limited to people who reside in the Huntwood neighborhood.
“My son kept asking what we were doing, and since North Castle canceled our town’s unofficial trick-or-treat run on Wampus and Glendale, I knew we needed a backup plan,” Jakaj said. “I reached out to Crafty’Cue food truck and our local ice cream truck driver, and asked them to come to our neighborhood on Halloween.
“It’s been heartwarming to watch how Huntwood has joined together over the pandemic – neighbors helping neighbors, volunteering, beautifying, and now, saving Halloween.”
Pleasantville residents will celebrate the holiday by hosting a streamlined version of their annual Halloween window painting contest for children in grades 2-8. To ensure social distancing, participants must sign up online for a specific date and time slot to express their creativity.
Despite these innovative and fun low-risk alternatives, county officials are ready in case some residents don’t follow CDC guidelines.
The Bedford and Katonah-Lewisboro school districts notified district parents this week warning them to limit their children’s involvement in high-risk Halloween activities. Bedford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joel Adelberg and his counterpart in Katonah-Lewisboro, Dr. Andrew Selesnick, noted they are working closely with local police departments who will be enforcing laws related to underage drinking and doing their best to limit partying.
“If we hear of large gatherings, we reserve the right to take appropriate action, including prohibiting in-person or hybrid learning and participation in other school activities for those students who participate in these gatherings,” Adelberg and Selesnick wrote.
In recent weeks there has been a temporary halt of in-person learning at numerous Westchester schools due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.