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Ahoskie Council adopts NCDHHS guidelines for Halloween

AHOSKIE – Town officials here wish for everyone to enjoy Halloween activities, but are stressing the need to follow safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At their regularly scheduled monthly meeting last week, town council members adopted North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) recommendations that individuals seek out lower risk activities, ones that promote social distancing, for Halloween.

“Town Council needs to make some sort of statement or take some sort of action to promote Halloween safety, which is heightened this year due to the pandemic,” said Town Manager Kerry McDuffie.

McDuffie added that Halloween events that traditionally take place in Ahoskie, to include the Haunted Basement at the Town Hall, have been canceled due to the virus.

“We need to let our citizens know what we’re going to do about Halloween,” stated Town Councilwoman Jamie Burns. “I wish there was something we could do safely for the kids.”

“We need to give some guidance; we need to let our citizens know there are some alternative things they can do to celebrate Halloween in a safe manner,” Mayor Weyling White said.

Councilman Roy Sharpe, who is also a pastor, said some churches, to include his (St. John 2nd Baptist) were planning Halloween events for the children.

Councilman Charles Freeman suggested those who wished for trick-or-treaters to come to their homes needed to simply leave a porch light on.

“They can offer individually wrapped treats, candy, and also have hand sanitizer available,” Freeman noted.

“I’ve heard from some who may just leave individual bags of candy at the end of their driveway for trick-or-treaters to pick up,” said Burns.

She added that perhaps the town could request the newspaper publish the NCDHHS recommendations for Halloween activities.

For those who want to trick-or-treat, the hours will be from 6-8 p.m. Adults accompanying the children are asked to wear face coverings.

“Old folks like me aren’t going out anyway, even if COVID wasn’t here,” Sharpe said. “I would just encourage those who do venture out to please be safe and follow the social distancing guidelines.”

Burns agreed.

“I feel they’ll be safe if they trick-or-treat in very small groups; perhaps just family groups walking together,” she said.

Instead of traditional trick-or-treating, the NCDHHS guidelines provide alternative Halloween activities. They include:

Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them;

Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance (more than 6 feet apart), with neighbors or friends;

Decorating your house, apartment, or living space;

Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance (children should remain within their household groups);

Have a virtual Halloween costume contest; and

Have a Halloween movie night with people you live with.

NCDHHS considers door-to-door trick-or-treating as a moderate risk activity. To encourage safety if that occurs, NCDHHS recommends no or low touch trick-or-treating by lining-up individually wrapped goodie bags for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard). If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.

Additionally, NCDHHS reminds families and participants to wear face coverings when they are or may be within six feet of another person, especially if coming to the door or standing on the porch where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.

Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

Families and participants are encouraged to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after touching shared objects or coughing and sneezing.

For organized events, NCDHHS recommends providing hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for participants, and tissues with trash receptacles for coughing or sneezing.

Families and participants should be encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath and be aware that a person can become infectious before they become ill, or without becoming ill. If they develop symptoms, participants should stay home.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh reminds adults who may dress up for Halloween to not wear costume masks inside any place of business.

Freeman motioned that those choosing to take part in Halloween activities follow the NCDHHS guidelines, to include all wearing health-safety masks; to prohibit adults from wearing costume masks in a place of business; and that all Halloween activities end by 8 p.m.

That motion was approved without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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