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Trick-or-treating allowed — but ‘not encouraged’ — in Howard County this Halloween

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released guidelines this week for Halloween celebrations and trick-or-treating next month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ball is not putting a ban on trick-or-treating, but children participating in the annual tradition is “not encouraged,” according to a county news release.

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“As the air becomes crisper, the leaves start falling, and stores begin filling their shelves with candy, we want to remind residents that we are still combating a deadly health crisis,” Ball said in a statement. “As Halloween approaches, I encourage residents to begin planning now so we can ensure all festivities are done safely.”

The Howard County Health Department is recommending, on top of the regular guidelines to avoid large gatherings, wear masks and remain socially distant, that residents stick to their household groups for trick-or-treating. The health department also suggests candy be left outside for children to take and trick-or-treaters should still wear masks underneath their costumes and sanitize their hands between homes.

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The county is also recommending that pumpkin patch hayrides could be done in small groups with social distancing, and indoor haunted houses should be restricted if social distancing isn’t possible and other health guidelines can’t be met.

“In order to keep our families safe, it is critical that we are cautious about how we celebrate the fall holidays,” Maura Rossman, health officer for the county, said in a statement. “Maintaining physical distancing, wearing a facial covering, avoiding large gatherings, washing hands often and limiting indoor events will help us be healthy and safe.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released Halloween guidelines on Monday, classifying “traditional” trick-or-treating as a “higher risk activity.” The CDC provided other suggestions for the holiday tradition, including one-way trick-or-treating with pre-wrapped bags of candy or a household scavenger hunt for candy. The CDC also classified hayrides and indoor haunted houses as high-risk activities.

Most jurisdictions in Maryland have yet to make a determination on trick-or-treating. Los Angeles County in California released guidelines earlier this month that banned trick-or-treating. That order was rescinded, though, as trick-or-treating in the most populous county in the country is now “not recommended,” according to the county’s Department of Public Health. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said New York would not prohibit trick-or-treating, while other jurisdictions, like Springfield, Massachusetts, are outright banning it.

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