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Local communities must decide on Halloween happenings, state says

The Ohio Department of Health “is strongly recommending” that hayrides and haunted houses be canceled or avoided because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t banned them.

Lance D. Himes, the department’s interim director, released Halloween guidelines Friday, urging people to use caution and plan ahead for celebrating Halloween.

Decisions on whether to participate in Halloween festivities should be made by local communities, individuals and parents, he said.

A day earlier, Gov. Mike DeWine said he had concerns about social distancing at hayrides and haunted houses. He said trick or treat hours are determined locally, and the state would not get involved.

In guidance issued Friday, Himes said, “It is strongly suggested that Ohioans exercise caution when deciding to participate in trick or treating and events that put them in close contact with people outside their households.”

To lower risk, Himes asked people to consider:

l Holding drive-through or drive-in trick-or-treat events with children in costume and face coverings staying in cars and collecting treats from individuals spaced at least 6 feet apart.

l Holding drive-by costume or car-decorating contests with judges who are at least 6 feet apart.

l Leaving treats in the mailboxes of friends and neighbors.

l Decorating your home and hiding treats as an alternative to trick-or-treating.

The guidance urges people not to have large in-person Halloween parties, keeping the limit to 10 people and to avoid activities such as bobbing for apples that foster the spread of infection.

The guidance states, “It will be reassessed and updated as the situation evolves and we learn more in the weeks leading up to Halloween.”

The guidelines for parents and guardians urge them to limit the number of houses visited when trick-or-treating and for children to stay as far away from treat-givers as possible, wipe off candy wrappers with sanitizing wipes when you arrive home and allow children to eat only factory-wrapped candy.

For those giving out candy, the guidelines include reaching out to neighbors to discuss ways to ensure social distancing, how candy can most safely be distributed and the need for face coverings.

Other suggestions include refraining from having children select their own candy from a common container, consider placing candy on porch steps or a table in the driveway with a sign asking children to take only one or hang treats from a wall or fence.

None of these is a state mandate.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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