ROXBURY, NJ - The township health department today released a list of “Halloween safety guidelines” designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 during trick-or-treating and other Halloween gatherings.

Predictably, the guidelines urge people to stick with social distancing guidance, to wear cloth masks and to wash their hands as much as possible on Halloween. They also suggest people consider “adapting” traditional celebrations in light of the pandemic.

For example, people are asked to limit door-to-door candy gathering to their own housing developments. And, ideally, the costumed entourages will include only “current household members.”

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When those in the group are not of the same family, the non-family members should not get too friendly, the township suggests: “If friends are with you, consider social distancing,” say the guidelines.

Residents who want to give candy should not do it by hand, according to the guidance. Instead, people should “leave a treat bowl out or place wrapped (non-perishable) treats out in a way they can be accessed easily” by trick-or-treaters.

Residents who don’t want kids coming to their door in search of treats should turn off their porch lights, suggests the township.

Echoing a comment made recently by Gov. Phil Murphy, Roxbury says costume face masks “are not an acceptable substitute,” for cloth face masks that should be worn beneath the costume masks.

However, it warns that children less than two years old should not wear cloth masks at all.

Roxbury also seems to suggest candy-harvesting trick-or-treaters wash their hands after each visit to a participating house. “Practice good hand hygiene by washing hands or using hand sanitizer before leaving your home, after touching objects such as wrapped candy and when arriving home,” say the guidelines.

Those planning Halloween parties are urged to “know the current restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings and avoid any large parties both indoors and outdoors.”

Speaking of indoors and outdoors, the township said the latter is preferred.

“Anything indoors should be avoided,” says the guidance. “If having anything indoors, stagger the start times and limit occupancy. A better alternative would be to have an outdoor event.”

Even outdoor events should be controlled with COVID-19 in mind, says Roxbury. “Hayrides should limit passengers per hayride,” it says. “Clean and decontaminate any shared items. Corn mazes should limit occupancy, proceed in one direction and avoid use of shared materials.”

If a “trunk-or-treat” event is organized, limits should be placed on the number of cars participating “to control crowds and help with social distancing,” says the guidance. “Assign shifts to minimize the group,” it adds. “Wear face masks … Practice good hand hygiene before the event, after touching candy or objects and after the event.”

To those growing weary of the word “virtual,” the township’s Halloween guidance offers no respite. “Some healthier, socially distant Halloween activities: Enjoy virtual activities such as spooky story time, costume parties or movies,” it says.

The guidance recommends several ways to celebrate Halloween without mingling with potentially infected people.

“Participate in a drive-through visiting (of) Halloween displays in your neighborhood,” says the guidance. “Enjoy pumpkin carving with your family. Your neighborhood can host a Halloween house decorating contest. Enjoy a Halloween drive-in movie night. Have a Halloween scavenger hunt with your family. Host an outdoor Halloween parade (practicing social distancing, of course).”

Throughout the document, the township repeatedly includes this directive: “Remember: If you are sick, stay home!”

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