Gov. Baker: Trick-Or-Treating Better Than Indoor Halloween Alternatives

SALEM, Mass. (State House News Service) — Whether this Halloween brings tricks or treats may just depend upon where you live. Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday his administration will leave it up to local officials to decide the best and safest way to celebrate Halloween this year.

"We will be putting out tips and advice with respect to Halloween. You won't see us put out what I would refer to as rules or mandates," Baker said Tuesday in Salem. "We do want local communities in this particular case, given how different many of our communities are across the commonwealth, the opportunity to make their own call with respect to how they want to see Halloween operate."

Baker said trick-or-treating should be done in small groups only, that all costumes should include a mask sufficient to help protect against spreading COVID-19, and that adults should consider leaving candy outside on a cookie sheet for trick-or-treaters to pick up.

"The best thing you can do if you want to celebrate Halloween, find a way to get outside and just be careful and cautious," the governor said. "Wear a face covering. Keep your distance and take advantage of all the guidance that's been out there previously about the best way to avoid further infection."

There was one thing the governor was willing to rule out Tuesday -- indoor Halloween parties, which he said are "a really bad idea" and part of the reason he does not want to "cancel Halloween."

"I've had a number of people tell me they've been invited to those kinds of gatherings. Most years at Halloween, I understand why and it makes sense. This is not one of those years," he said. Baker later added, "the reason we're not canceling Halloween is because that would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties, which would have been a heck of a lot worse for public safety and for the spread of the virus than outdoor organized and supervised trick-or-treating."

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Earlier in the day, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance put out a statement calling on Baker to "make clear to the children, parents, and businesses across Massachusetts that Halloween is on this year" as a way to give retailers and other businesses a bit of a boost.

In Salem, which annually receives flocks of tourists from around the world leading up to and around Halloween, Mayor Kim Driscoll said she is working with public health officials to issue guidance for trick-or-treating.

"We're purists, folks are probably going to go out. And we feel like there's family decisions ... we have throngs of tourists that are here and if families can safely, certainly following those directives and guidance, in small groups with masks go, we'd love to be able to enable that," she said. "And if residents don't feel comfortable having people come, there are ways that you can turn off porch lights and give that direction as well."

The Witch City was in the yellow, moderate risk category with a rising incidence rate in the Department of Public Health's latest update on town-by-town COVID-19 transmission data. Driscoll had previously said her city would not move into the latest economic reopening round authorized by Baker, canceled all parades, festivals and large events, prohibited street performers from the downtown area, ceased all marketing, implemented a mandatory mask zone in the downtown area, and began requiring all overnight guests in Salem to complete a local traveler form.

Baker said he expects Salem will get "hundreds of thousands" of tourists this month despite the changes to cope with the pandemic and he praised Driscoll's work to plan for the inevitable.

"There's no question there will be people in Salem in October, it's like the swallows going home to Capistrano or wherever it is they go. It just is going to happen," the governor said. "But the work that the mayor and her team have done to establish a culture here of wearing masks and socially distancing and recognizing and understanding the issues associated with this is pretty powerful."

The governor on Tuesday also addressed the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. He said he has tried to reframe some of his messaging specifically to get through to people between the ages of 20 and 30, the demographic showing the greatest growth in COVID-19 cases.

"We've certainly altered some of our messaging to try to get more attention applied to that community because, in some respects, they are at this point in time three-quarters of the new cases in the last 14 days," Baker said.

Baker said his administration and the people advising him have been talking since the spring about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this fall and he said the most important thing his administration has done is to "create an infrastructure to identify and support people who test positive and to continue to build relationships through conversation and support with our health care community."

As for the rise in hospitalizations -- the three-day average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is up 55 percent since late August -- Baker said that "we're still talking about pretty small numbers when it comes to hospitalized COVID patients, a couple of hundred, which as you know is down from almost 4,000 at the peak of this thing."

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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