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Is it safe to trick-or-treat in a pandemic?


With coronavirus among the scariest factors in communities across the state this year, many Glen Cove parents are wondering whether it’s safe to take their children trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the question last month in an interview with News 12 Long Island. “I would not ban trick-or-treaters going door to door,” he said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. … If you want to go for a walk with your child through the neighborhood, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t.”

Many children — and parents — are excited about Halloween, but some are understandably a bit skeptical. Glen Cove parent Stacey Karathanasis said she planned to let her kids go trick-or-treating and attend a small gathering afterward. But the candy they collect, she said, will remain in the bag due to Covid-19 concerns.

“I’ll let them experience the Halloween night, let them go trick-or-treating, but they’re not touching whatever is given to us,” Karathanasis said. “Things are getting worse — the numbers are getting higher. We may even skip everything and not do any of this. It all depends on how things are by then. Two weeks are a long time. Anything can happen by then.”

Scott Goldberg, a father of a 16-month-old, said that he was looking forward to taking his family out on Halloween, while following precautions such as wearing (non-Halloween) masks, changing gloves frequently and keeping his daughter, Vera, at a safe social distance from others.

“We plan on hitting up all of our childhood spots, that my wife and I grew up in, to take the baby safely and to social distance,” Goldberg said. “We’re very happy to also hear that a lot of homes will be doing all types of candy giving, from trunk-or-treat to leaving candy out in bags for the trick-or-treaters.”

Dr. Greg Gulbransen, an Oyster Bay pediatrician, agreed that trick-or-treating should be safe as long as parents lead their children in taking the necessary precautions. “I think that kids can trick-or-treat in small groups, wearing masks and sanitizing their hands often while collecting candy,” Gulbransen said. “They’ll be fine.”

Parents, he added, should take the same precautions as their children. “It’s really more of the same thing we’re already doing,” he said.

Goldberg said that given everything children have been through this year, they should at least have Halloween to look forward to. “What I remember as a child was the late-afternoon sun glow hitting the neighborhood and all the leaves being orange and yellow,” he said. “It felt like a festive time, where everyone was out running around and enjoying Halloween.”

Experiences like that, Goldberg said, are important for children.

“As a Glen Cove parent,” Donna Salvatore-Christ said, “I’m concerned that our kids are missing out on so much since March, and I hope they can participate in somewhat of a safe and normal Halloween, although trick-or-treating may be a little different this year due to Covid.”

Dr. Bradley Sherman, Glen Cove Hospital’s medical director and chair of the Department of Medicine, offered a dissenting opinion, saying he didn’t think children should go trick-or-treating this year. “It would be too difficult for children and families to social distance and to wear a mask,” Sherman said. “You need to do both. And then the child would have to take candy from somone or take some out of a bowl that others have touched. It will be hard for parents to disappoint their children, but Covid rates are climbing.” 

City Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola said that families should decide what form of Halloween celebration, if any, works for them. “What’s good for one person isn’t necessarily good for the other person,” she said. “That’s true for Covid and in general.”

Fugazy Scagliola said she planned to take her children trick-or-treating, while following local and state health guidelines. “Everyone in general on Halloween should be safe,” she said. “Practice the guidelines that are set forth to stay safe.”