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Sick or treat? State officials advise against trick-or-treating but Dane County says it's OK if modified
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Sick or treat? State officials advise against trick-or-treating but Dane County says it's OK if modified

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RECORD SNOW FOR HALLOWEEN (copy)

Lyra Butler, 6, of Verona, sports a winter coat, hat and mittens along with a summery butterfly costume on a snowy Halloween while trick-or-treating last year.

State health officials are recommending against trick-or-treating as usual this Halloween because of COVID-19, while officials in Dane County are asking people to modify trick-or-treating but not recommending against it.

“Going house-to-house and having in-person contact is not recommended,” the Wisconsin Department of Health Services says in its guidance about Halloween, updated Friday. The agency urges people to “find new ways to celebrate that don’t involve big in-person parties or traditional trick-or-treating.”

However, Public Health Madison and Dane County’s Halloween Tips, issued Friday and updated Monday, say trick-or-treaters should be only with people they live with, wear masks, stay 6 feet from others and remain in their neighborhoods.

“At this time, we ask that people modify their approach to trick-or-treating but are not actively recommending against it,” said Sarah Mattes, spokeswoman for the city-county health department. “If that changes we would make a larger announcement.”

But Freakfest, an annual parade of costumes and music on State Street around Halloween, is not happening this year “per mass gathering requirements,” Mattes said.

Downtown Madison Family Halloween has also been canceled, according to Downtown Madison Inc. The haunted houses Wisconsin Scaryland in Waunakee and Screamin’ Acres in Stoughton also won’t be open, they said.

For people handing out treats, Public Health Madison and Dane County advises setting bowls outside so trick-or-treaters can get candy without coming too close, and putting bowls at the bottom of steps or on driveways to prevent crowding.

Other tips

Trick-or-treaters should spot the candy they want to avoid rummaging around the bowl, use hand sanitizer frequently and let candy sit for a day or two before eating it, the city-county health department said.

“Halloween needs to look different this year to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19,” the city-county department’s tip sheet said.

The state health department said that if communities allow traditional trick-or-treating, people should leave treat bags on porches for children to pick up.

“Even though being outside decreases the risk, being in close contact with people you don’t live with increases the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19,” the department’s guidance says.

CDC guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers trick-or-treating “where treats are handed to children who go door to door” to be a higher-risk activity. It recommends lower-risk activities such as decorating pumpkins or having virtual costume contests.

At least one community in Wisconsin, Antigo, has already canceled trick-or-treating, according to the Associated Press.

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