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How Some Mass. Communities Are Planning For A Pandemic-Safe Halloween

Throngs of people cross the street in Salem on Oct. 24, 2020. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Gov. Charlie Baker are imploring the public to avoid the historic city between now and Halloween and said there will be early businesses closings, significant parking restrictions,and no traditional holiday events in an effort to thin out crowds amid the ongoing pandemic. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Throngs of people cross the street in Salem on Oct. 24, 2020. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Gov. Charlie Baker are imploring the public to avoid the historic city between now and Halloween and said there will be early businesses closings, significant parking restrictions,and no traditional holiday events in an effort to thin out crowds amid the ongoing pandemic. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

As Halloween approaches, Gov. Charlie Baker is urging residents to avoid parties and gatherings as the state sees an uptick in coronavirus cases.

"I've said many times over the course of the past 10 days that organized and structured outdoor trick or treating is a much safer way for people to celebrate Halloween than to gather indoors for an extended period of time — to share food, to play games, and to participate in what I would describe as close contact activities between and among multiple generations," Baker said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, the seven-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases was 806, a number that has more than doubled since early September. Public health experts say the rise is concerning, but that the state is likely more prepared to handle a spike and contain the spread than it was during the virus's first wave.

For Baker, how residents choose to celebrate the holidays is a crucial component of that.

"I mean, if people gather inside and have a whole bunch of indoor Halloween parties — which, I think everybody has heard pretty clearly from us and from many others that that's just a bad idea for a whole bunch of reasons — that will hurt with respect to our numbers and to the spread," he said.

Last week, Baker joined Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll for a press conference to discuss closures in the city and ask people to stay away on its usually busy holiday. All the Witch City's typical Halloween celebrations have been canceled.

"This is not the year to come to Salem, this is not the year to visit," Driscoll said on Oct. 21. "All Halloween activities have been canceled this year, there'll be no music stages, no street performers, no beer gardens, no DJs and no fireworks, and, we hope, no crowds."

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh released guidance on Halloween this week, asking residents to take extra precautions if they choose to celebrate, such as wearing masks, maintaining a safe distance and avoiding gatherings.

"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.

The city lists parties, haunted houses, hayrides, and both traditional trick or treating and car-based "trunk or treating" among activities that come with risk of spreading the virus.

Some towns and cities across the state are banning trick or treating altogether, or limiting hours that they are asking residents to do so.

Brookline and Cambridge are discouraging residents from participating in traditional trick or treating, but recommend lower risk alternatives.

"Should residents decide to take part in safer trick-or-treating, they could provide individually wrapped candies or goody bags at the end of their driveway or walkway for neighborhood children to take," the city of Brookline said in a statement.

In Chelsea, the Board of Health passed an order earlier this month stating that trick or treating and Halloween gatherings are "strongly discouraged and safer alternatives should be considered."

A number of towns and cities recommend that if residents do trick or treat, they remain outdoors and use individually wrapped goodie bags, to be taken without direct person-to-person contact.

Some are even offering alternatives, like Medford, which is hosting city-sponsored events such as a lantern and pumpkin float, a virtual costume contest and a home-decorating contest.

In Revere, residents are asked to forgo trick-or-treating and parties for a drive-through event called "Spooktacular Lane" at Revere High School.

The city of Somerville is mapping out a self-guided walking tour of Halloween decorations and offering children's activities throughout the week. It's also hosting a citywide "Howl-O-Ween," which invites residents to "don a face covering and then give their best Halloween growls, ghost boos, and woops (or to just politely holler out their COVID-19 woes and frustrations) from their doors and windows at 6:30 p.m. on Halloween."

"Being with one another is something that many of us need and want more than ever," Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said. "Of course. But we must remain vigilant and in corporate safety precautions into everything we do, including holiday celebrations. There's just no way around it."

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