Massachusetts Department of Public Health urges residents to keep Halloween festivities outdoors

Massachusetts health officials renewed their push Wednesday for people to keep Halloween celebrations outdoors and socially distanced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Department of Public Health issued recommendations based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that condone trick-or-treating and other festivities as long as people follow safety precautions.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who said he wouldn’t issue a mandate limiting or canceling Halloween events, said letting the celebrations continue under existing COVID-19 restrictions could deter people from hosting private Halloween parties that could become super-spreader events.

“They would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties, which would be a heck of a lot worse for public safety than outdoor organized and supervised trick-or-treating,” Baker said Tuesday afternoon in Salem.

The state urged people to wear face masks, even if their costume comes with a decorative mask. People should remain at least 6 feet apart, wash their hands, carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching their faces. People should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before eating candy and when touching commonly used surfaces.

DPH suggests avoiding “crowded costume parties held indoors or any gatherings that exceed indoor or outdoor gathering limits.”

DPH also discourages visiting indoor haunted houses and taking hayrides with people outside of your household.

Massachusetts officials promoted the CDC guidelines on the state website last month, referring to the federal agency for more information. The CDC’s guidelines say trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities that take people outside of their homes can carry “varying levels” of risk.

Lawrence and Leicester, Springfield, Worcester and Pittsfield are among a growing number of communities that have restricted or canceled parades and trick-or-treating over concerns of spreading COVID-19.

Local and state leaders agreed on a number of virtual alternatives. DPH advised families to consider decorating their yard so visitors can enjoy the view from afar, hosting virtual costume contests and pumpkin carving events and doing scavenger hunts or movie nights at home.

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