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Trick-or-treaters encouraged to take extra safety precautions

Posted at 12:12 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 14:59:03-04

GREAT FALLS — As Halloween approaches, some people are wondering whether kids in Great Falls are prohibited from trick-or-treating this year due to COVID.

The answer is no - there are no official restrictions in Great Falls on traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating. However, public health officials urge people to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing as much as possible in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Another factor to consider is that, while there will indeed be kids roaming neighborhoods for candy, more households than usual may not be giving out candy this year.

The Downtown Great Falls Association will host safe trick-or-treating on Saturday, October 31, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The annual event usually runs for just two hours; the event page says that the additional time will allow families to come downtown, safely trick-or-treat, and be able to socially distance as required. Organizers said: "The safety of our community is the number one concern, please be respectful of fellow trick-or-treater's space, as well as the participating businesses request for the use of masks when entering the business."

Here is the information provided by the City-County Health Department in Great Falls regarding traditional trick-or-treating:

From Montana State Department of Public Health and Human Services Frequently Asked Questions (updated 10/23/20). Please note that the Governor's directives can be supplemented by more restrictive local measures put into place by county authorities. As of 10/26/2020 there are no such measures in Cascade County, but this is subject to change.

  • Can my kids still go trick-or-treating this year? As things stand presently, kids could still do their trick-or-treating but should wear face coverings (those aged 5 and older), and should social distance to the extent possible. Those handing out candy should also wear face coverings and practice good sanitation and hygiene throughout the course of the occasion. However, please note that the Governor’s directives can be supplemented by more restrictive local measures put into place by county authorities.
  • Are private holiday parties exempt from the Governor's directives? No. The jurisdiction of state and local public health agencies extends to both public and private property. Groups greater than 50 currently are not advised. However, if you are planning an event with more than 50 people you should consult with your local public health office on a plan to implement adequate social distancing. Event cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on current circumstances in that community. The face covering directive applies to indoor spaces that are open to the public, or outdoor gatherings of 50 or more people where social distancing is not possible or is not being practiced regardless of whether the gathering occurs on public or private property.

The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provides the following safety tips for trick-or-treaters, and for people who plan to hand out candy:

Make trick-or-treating safer

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

Wear a mask

  • Make your cloth mask part of your costume.
  • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you

  • Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

Wash your hands

  • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Parents: supervise young children using hand sanitizer.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.

Even with precautions, however, the CDC lists traditional trick or treating as a “high risk” activity, along with having trunk or treats, or attending crowded parties.

If you’re looking for a moderate risk activity, the CDC recommends participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped bags are lined up for families to grab, attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart, or visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people are wearing masks and social distancing.

If you're looking for low-risk Halloween options, the CDC recommends carving pumpkins with members of your household, doing a Halloween scavenger hunt, or having a virtual Halloween costume contest.