Cuomo won’t ban trick or treating amid pandemic; Local officials look to socially distanced celebrations

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CAPITAL REGION — The leaves may only just be turning color, but thoughts in some quarters are already turning to Halloween — and most specifically, whether there can be such a thing as safe trick-or-treating this year.

The city of Amsterdam and other local communities are already working on ideas for alternatives, but until Tuesday it wasn’t known what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s position would be.

If the Oct. 31 tradition should be scotched because of concerns that little ninjas and ghouls could either catch or spread coronavirus while collecting candy, Cuomo is leaving it to local officials to make that decision.

During an interview with News 12 Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he won’t ban trick-or-treating statewide because of the pandemic, though he made it sound likely that the state will be offering some guidance.

“I would not ban trick-or-treaters going door to door,” Cuomo said, according to a transcript released by his office. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. You have neighbors — if you want to go knock on your neighbor’s door, God bless you, and I’m not going to tell you not to. If you want to go for a walk with your child through the neighborhood, I’m not gonna tell you you can’t take your child to the neighborhood, I’m not going to do that — I’ll give you my advice and guidance and then you will make a decision what you do that night.”

The city of Los Angeles, which has a major and ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, had banned trick-or-treating for this year, which led to speculation that New York state might do the same. But following strong public backlash, the city backed off a little, saying last Wednesday that trick-or-treating was only “not recommended.

It has become quite common in recent years for communities to set trick-or-treating hours — commonly, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and to discourage activity outside those hours. Halloween is typically a busy night for police, with teens often more interested in tricks and other pranking than in treats. Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, which means the costume-and-candy tradition will be amplified by the Saturday night behavior that has always kept law enforcement on its toes.


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Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti said the city has been looking for alternatives to the traditional Halloween activities while waiting for whatever guidance Cuomo was going to provide.

“I firmly believe that a majority of Amsterdam’s parents and residents would be quite hesitant to participate in traditional door-to-door, trick-or-treating this year,” Cinquanti said. “With COVID still lurking, this would definitely also not be a good year to get three thousand children and adults shoulder-to-shoulder participating in our annual trick-or-treat on the (Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook) Bridge event.”

As a consequence, Cinquanti said Amsterdam is sponsoring a trick-or-treat, drive-through distribution. “The idea would be that each child in each car would receive a bag of treats donated by various sponsors throughout the city,” he said. “We’re thinking about possibly incorporating a “Best Face Mask” contest as part of the event. Fortunately, our community has a core group of generous, good-hearted sponsors, citizen-volunteers and civil servants who make these special events possible. Together we are determined to make sure the children of Amsterdam will get treats this Halloween.”

The National Confectioners Association — which just might have a big stake in how this plays out — reported Tuesday that new consumer research finds that that 80 percent of people believe that they will find creative and safe ways to celebrate the Halloween season this year. This is up from just 63 percent in July, the organization said.

The National Retail Federation puts annual Halloween candy spending at $2.6 billion.

in Saratoga County, the popular Double M Haunted Hayride in Malta, which takes place weekends during October, will be operating a fright attraction this year, but only as a drive-through, according to its Facebook page.

The town of Greenfield, meanwhile, will open the town-owned Brookhaven golf course for a “safe, socially-distanced event for kids to trick or treat,” assuming there is sufficient public interest. Residents will be allowed to choose a golf cart to decorate with Halloween themes, then drive it to a designated spot on the golf course. From that location, they will be able to distribute candy to children who come around the course between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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