October 21, 2021

Communities differ in approach to Halloween

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Sarah Van Gorden, left, watches Tamera Stephenson, assistant manager of Kinney Drugs in Cortland, speak about popular Halloween candy on Saturday. Local officials have varying views on trick or treating this year but are leaving the decision up to individuals.

Batman, zombies and movie characters that typically roam the streets on Halloween in search of treats may be out and about this year, but local officials will leave the choice of whether people can go trick-or-treating to themselves.

“We find it a difficult thing to say what is the right thing to do,” said Dryden Mayor Mike Murphy.

The village won’t host its Halloween costume and wagon ride events, as it has in the past, because people would not be able to socially distance themselves, Murphy said.

Communities in the greater Cortland area are trying to find safe ways to let kids out and about on Halloween during a coronavirus pandemic that’s no treat. Some are canceling activities, but allowing kids to go trick-or-treating. Others are seeking alternatives.

But going door to door and being up close and personal though may not be the safest way to celebrate the holiday, said Kevin Cummings, an associate professor of epidemiology at Cornell University.

“Conventional trick-or-treating would be regarded as a high-risk activity, primarily because you’re going door-to-door and exposing yourself to people outside of your family or immediate social pod, without maintaining appropriate distancing,” Cummings said.

He recommended that people who want to give out treats place them in bags and leave them outside the home to reduce person-to-person contact. And anyone going out trick-or-treating should wear a cloth mask because Halloween masks won’t provide proper protection.

Cummings suggests that people follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines: Stay home, eat some candy and watch a scary movie. Maybe attend a virtual party.

“I love Halloween just as much as the next guy, but I don’t recommend that people go trick-or-treating this year because of the potential for virus transmission,” he said.

In Dryden, Murphy said the village’s board of trustees will meet again before Halloween to discuss whether there may be any other changes or additions for Halloween, but said the village is following state guidance on the matter. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in September he would leave trick-or-treating up to the decision of parents.

Murphy recommended that anyone trick-or-treating stay 6 feet apart from other groups and use hand sanitizers after receiving treats.

Cortland will not host its annual parade, Mayor Brian Tobin said. Other safety recommendations will be released following the Common Council’s Oct. 20 meeting.

Alderman Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward) brought up the idea at the Oct. 6 meeting of having trick or treating during the afternoon and early evening hours, when it would be light enough so people could see each other and socially distance.

Alderwoman Kathryn Silliman (D-2nd Ward) said she liked that idea, but wasn’t completely comfortable with trick-or-treating, all the same.

“Overall, personally, I would not encourage people to do trick-or-treating this year,” Silliman said. “I understand it’s a Saturday and a big deal in a kid’s life, I totally get that, but try to find other creative ways of celebrating because it’s just kind of foolhardy, in my opinion.”

Marathon plans on hosting a trunk-or-treat event at Lovell Field where boys and ghouls can get treats from car trunks of the village’s fire auxiliary members, Mayor William McGovern said. Details including time, are still being worked out.

The Groton Fire Department will host both a drive-through and walk-through trick-or-treating events, Village Clerk Nancy Niswender said. The drive-through trick-or-treating will require people to stay in their cars and the walk-through will require people to be masked, use hand sanitizer and be separated when they collect candy at the village lot.

Like Dryden, both Marathon and Groton will leave the decision to go trick-or-treating up to individuals, but both recommend following COVID-19 guidelines of social distancing, wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer frequently.

“It’s becoming almost second nature with how we’re doing things these days,” McGovern said.