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Town of Auburn, Massachusetts
Julie A. Jacobson
October 14, 2020
Community Message Regarding Halloween
Board of Selectmen Cancel Traditional Door-to-Door Trick or Treating and Endorse the Alternative Trunk or Treat Event
The global health pandemic caused by Covid-19 has impacted our local, state and national economies as well as those economies across the globe. Communities across the country, including Auburn, have had to adapt to those social and economic impacts as we forge a new reality, which means new ways of doing business, new ways of interacting and communicating with others, new ways of learning, and new ways to deliver health care. Covid-19 has compelled municipal and state officials to develop new and creative strategies for operating and delivering services to the public while protecting the health and welfare of our citizens. In Auburn, these innovative approaches have enabled the Town to continue to provide critical and essential services to our residents and businesses.
However, Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on community events, whether public or private, as most events since the pandemic’s outbreak in March have been cancelled. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and the State’s Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines and data, large gatherings and events, both indoors and outdoors, have specific restrictions in Massachusetts under Governor Baker’s Orders, and many such activities and events are prohibited under the current Phase III of the Commonwealth’s Statewide Reopening Plan. Since Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic in March, several holiday events have been cancelled in Auburn and across the State, including traditional Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations. While not an official state or national holiday, Halloween is observed on October 31st, with traditional door-to-door trick or treating and other fun activities for children. Children enjoy wearing costumes and collecting candy from residents who greet the children at their doors. It is usually a fun family night that children eagerly anticipate.
Covid-19 has threatened the traditional Halloween trick or treating as this activity has been deemed by the CDC to be “high risk” for spreading the Coronavirus. Auburn has been in the yellow zone, based on DPH community data, for the past three weeks, while the City of Worcester has been in the red zone, and as of October 7th, other Central Massachusetts towns are now in the red as well, including the neighboring town of Leicester. Both Worcester and Leicester have already announced that they have cancelled door-to-door trick or treat. Statewide, the number of Covid positive cases is trending upward, and health experts predict a further increase in cases as we enter the flu season this fall. Based on this data, and weighing the risks versus the benefits, Town Administration and the Board of Health recommended that the Board of Selectmen cancel door-to-door trick or treating this year. While we recognize that cancelling traditional door-to-door trick or treat this year may be disappointing to children, we believe that cancelling is the responsible decision to protect the health and safety of all of our residents during this global pandemic.
As a result, and after much thoughtful discussion at its meeting last night, the Board of Selectmen voted to support the recommendation of Town administration and cancel traditional door-to-door trick or treating. They also endorsed the alternative Trunk or Treat event described below.
In lieu of traditional door-to-door trick or treat, Town Administration has partnered with Faith Church and Cub Scout Pack 53 to hold a specially designed “Trunk or Treat” that mitigates Covid concerns. The event will be held on Saturday, October 31st from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the Dr. Arthur and Dr. Martha Pappas Recreation Complex on Pakachoag Street.In the case of severe inclement weather, the event will be held on Sunday, November 1st at the same time.
Attendees to the Trunk or Treat event will be limited to those who have pre-registered only. No vehicle will be allowed to participate unless they have pre-registered. Those who wish to attend (i.e. families driving through in vehicles) will be required to reserve their time slot. Registration is limited to about 650 vehicles (this number may change as plans are finalized).
Trunk or Treat Reimagined 2020 is a family-oriented event where Auburn families can dress in Halloween costume and come with their children to experience a fun, safe, drive-through alternative to door-to-door trick or treating. Volunteers from Faith Church, in conjunction with the Town of Auburn and Cub Scout Pack 53 as well as area businesses, will wear costumes and decorate their vehicles in child friendly themes. Pre-registered participating vehicles will be parked in the Pappas Recreation Complex lot along a pre-determined route and distribute candy to attendees arriving in their vehicles. We anticipate approximately 50 participating vehicles distributing candy in a contactless manner.
Families registered to attend Trunk or Treat Reimagined 2020 will be required to remain in their vehicles with their family group and will be required to wear masks throughout the event. Candy will be delivered through a contactless delivery system and must store bought, individually wrapped, and provided by the pre-registered participants. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies will be awarded to the top three best decorated/most innovative vehicles. An additional prize will be awarded for the most innovative contactless candy delivery system.
Planning for this event continues and details will be released once all plans are finalized.
While the CDC classifies traditional Trunk or Treat activities as high risk due to the typical distribution of candy from vehicle trunks to groups of trick or treaters walking past the vehicles, town administration has collaborated with these community partners to hold a Trunk or Treat event that mitigates the risk of the spread of the disease by implementing health measures that protect both the passengers in the vehicles and the volunteers distributing the candy. The Faith Church has held Trunk or Treat in Auburn in the past but this year’s event, in partnership with the Town of Auburn, will be “Trunk or Treat Reimagined 2020”, which incorporates revisions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In conjunction with the recommendations of the Board of Health, we believe that these measures reduce the risk of this event. These measures include contactless distribution of candy, safe distancing between the parked vehicles from which candy will be distributed, masks worn by all volunteers, and providing candy that is pre-wrapped only. All participants will be required to wear masks, including the adults and children in the vehicles. It is important to note that traditional Halloween costume masks are not designed for Covid-19 protection so children should masks recommended by the CDC and Department of Public Health – which can be decorated in Halloween themes.
We are excited to collaborate these community partners to present this safer alternative to traditional Halloween events. Of course, despite the measures that will be taken to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 for this event, it is important to note that no event can be categorized as completely risk-free so families need to decide the best and safest manner to celebrate Halloween this year.
We also strongly encourage families to celebrate Halloween this year through low risk activities. The CDC suggests that the following lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:
Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house
While we recognize that people are frustrated by the disruptions that Covid-19 has caused to their normal daily lives as well as to the traditional events and celebrations they typically enjoy, we also have to acknowledge that municipal officials have a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of our citizens and to discourage activities that could be harmful. Town administration and community members have been working hard to develop a safe alternative and to encourage new ways to celebrate Halloween.
We thank the Board of Selectmen as our community leaders for recognizing that traditional door-to-door trick or treat is a high risk activity and for voting instead to support the Trunk or Treat as the safer alternative.