ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Celebrating Halloween will look a bit different for costumed kiddos this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Halloween, the decision whether to trick-or-treat in neighborhoods rests entirely on local families, but city, county and state officials are offering some safety tips to help mitigate risk in the face of COVID-19.
Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township officials weigh in
Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township officials are all leaving it up to their residents to decide if they want to participate in trick-or-treating this year.
In Rochester, City Manager Blaine Wing said Halloween is not an official city event; however, honoring tradition, the City Council unanimously decided to allow the city to set off its siren at 6 p.m. to start trick-or-treating hours, and then again at 8 p.m. to conclude the activity.
“We are still encourage families to make individual choices for their comfort level and to follow the CDC and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidelines,” he said.
Councilwoman Amanda Harrison said the decision to sound the siren on Halloween doesn’t mean the city is supporting — or not supporting — trick-or-treating.
“I think I was the one who was most reluctant about setting hours and encouraging people to go out and trick or treat this Halloween, but I also spent the weekend talking to families and getting insight from our neighbors, and I do feel comfortable setting these hours and having the siren go off to signify the start and end of trick-or-treating. It’s up to the individual families to make the decision for themselves,” she said.
In Rochester Hills, Mayor Bryan Barnett said the city is hosting its traditional trick-or-treating hours, 6-8 p.m., once again this year.
“We’re basically just encouraging folks to be smart,” Barnett said. “The CDC has some recommendations out there, and we think those make a lot of sense. We want everyone — both those passing treats out and those going around to get them — to be safe.”
Rochester Hills City Council President Ryan Deel said participation is up to each family and individual.
“It’s a parent’s decision (whether to let their kids trick or treat), so the parents can make a decision individually, and individual homeowners can make a decision if they want to participate in it or not based on their own health circumstances,” he said.
In Oakland Township, traditional trick-or-treating times are 6-8 p.m., according to Assistant Township Manager Jamie Moore.
“The township doesn’t enforce any Halloween hours, but generally, we recommend the same hours as Rochester Hills, which is 6-8 p.m. this year,” she said.
Oakland County Sheriff, MDHHS, CDC share Halloween safety tips
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced it considers trick-or-treating a “high-risk” activity. As such, like everything else in 2020, trick-or-treating will need to be a little different this year.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said safely celebrating Halloween in the middle of a global pandemic begins with the fundamental precautions, including: staying home if you’re sick, maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet, wearing a cloth mask that covers both the mouth and nose, and washing hands often or frequently using hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
“The way we celebrate Halloween in Michigan will be different this year due to COVID-19,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said in a statement. “However, there are still many ways to celebrate safely.”
Tips for trick-or-treaters and parents include: talking with children about safety and social distancing guidelines and expectations, keeping a 6-foot distance from anyone not in your group, participating in one-way trick-or-treating and guiding children to stay to the right to ensure social distancing, only trick-or-treating with people you live with, avoiding congregating in groups around houses, and wearing a face mask covering both the mouth and the nose.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said it’s also important to make sure children avoid wearing Halloween masks over protective masks, as it may restrict their ability to breath. He said an adult should always accompany trick-or-treaters to ensure safety measures and protocols are being followed and check the Michigan Sexual Offender Registry, which is accessible at www.oaklandsheriff.com, to avoid households where a sex offender may reside in your community.
The CDC also shared some tips for homeowners who decide to hand out candy and treats, including: using duct tape to mark 6-foot lines in front of a home and leading to the driveway/front door; positioning a distribution table between yourself and trick-or-treaters; distributing candy on a disinfected table to eliminate direct contact; and handing out candy in an open space where distancing is possible, rather than from the front door.
The guidance also urges Michiganders to consider hosting virtual parties instead of in-person Halloween gatherings.
Michigan health officials said information around this outbreak is changing rapidly.
For more information, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.