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COVID Fears Frame Community Halloween Policies In Berkshire County

A halloween lawn display including a witch and a zombie
en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17957367

This Halloween, Berkshire County communities are taking different approaches to trick-or-treating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a year that’s already had its fair share of horror, the fate of the fall’s beloved annual door-to-door candy hunt on the spookiest night of the year varies from community to community. Despite warnings from the CDC that Halloween invites high-risk virus spreading activities, the second largest city in the county – North Adams – has stopped short of discouraging in-person trick or treating.

“The safest decision is don’t do it – and hopefully, there will be people who that’s the approach they take. But for those who choose to, who are looking for a little bit of normality – and in a way that keeps it contained to 90 minutes on the 31st – I’m willing to give it a try," said Mayor Tom Bernard. He says based on the data the city has today, he’s willing to allow the holiday romp to happen as long as residents follow safety protocols.

“If things start to change and shift and trend in a negative direction or a concerning direction, we will revisit this decision," said Bernard. "And I would hate to do that.”

40 miles south, the Town Manager of Great Barrington – Mark Pruhenski – says his community will follow suit.

“That’s only if we are listed – or continue to be listed – as a low-risk community on the state’s COVID-19 map,” he told WAMC.    

Squarely in the middle, the county seat of Pittsfield has outright told citizens to stay home, as has Springfield.

“Because we’ve done so well, we don’t want to go backwards," said Pittsfield Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCullough-Dews. "And we know kids are back in school, we know that there will be a cohort of students who are going back to school before Halloween begins, so I think the emphasis here is making sure everyone is safe, making sure everyone takes the proper protocols if they indeed choose to engage in trick or treat.”

According to the Pittsfield Public Schools, all of its students who have opted for a return to in-person education will be in a hybrid learning model by October 27th.

Despite the public health concerns, some Pittsfielders plan on weathering the discouragement and celebrating the holiday.

“I think the city just wants to play it safe, and I understand that. However, our kids have been so out of anything social in the last, what, now eight months, that I think this is a really good chance to do something – and we can take precautions," said Kate Lauzon. 

A Pittsfield parent who lives in the Morningside neighborhood, says she’s excited to offer trick-or-treaters candy this Halloween.

“I don’t think it’s any different from going to a drive through at McDonald’s or going to the grocery store and picking up your groceries as long as you follow precautions and talk to your kids before they go,” Lauzon told WAMC.

Lauzon, who has chosen to homeschool her kids this year, says she’s prepared for a suitably festive, contact free candy handoff.

“We decorated up to the nines, we’re going to have a really good display, we’re going to be in costume and I’m going to have a table set out front with the candy opened from packages that I open with gloves on, and they’re welcome to stop by and grab candy from the table," she explained. "And I also have one of those picker-grabbers, so if they don’t want to pick it up, I can just pick it up with that and put it right in their bags.”

WAMC: And what kind of candy specifically have you gone for?

LAUZON: I want to BJ’s and I bought the big bars, so, they’ll be getting the big bars from me this year.

WAMC: A big bar house! That’s news!

LAUZON: Well, I think that if they’re willing to come out and trick or treat and I know that I’m promising very sanitized safe conditions that it’s well-worth coming to my house.

Lauzon says trick or treaters better be prepared to be scared.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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