Halloween is still several weeks away, but the largest city in western Massachusetts has made a decision about how it can safely be celebrated during the pandemic.
There will be no door-to-door trick or treating in the neighborhoods of the city of Springfield this Halloween because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a no-brainer," said Mayor Domenic Sarno.
He said he made the decision after consulting with the city’s health and human services commissioner and announced it now to give families and organizations that might typically put on Halloween-themed activities time to make other plans.
Sarno said he believes most people will understand the need to cancel door-to-door trick or treating. However, he recalled the pushback he received after postponing trick or treating in 2011 after a late October snowstorm left most of the city without power for days.
" Why in the hell would you want to put your child or yourself in harms way?" said Sarno. "It makes no sense whatsoever."
In addition to saying “no” to trick or treating this year, Springfield will not allow large Halloween parties, even if held outdoors. Also, there are to be no haunted house attractions, carnivals, or festivals permitted.
Asked at his weekly COVID-19 briefing if violators of the trick or treating ban could be fined, Sarno said he hoped it would not come to that.
"We have tried to educate and to try to avoid confrontational situations and that has gone very very well," said Sarno of the city's efforts to enforce the rules and restrictions that have been put in place over the last several months to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Halloween this year does not have to be a total bummer because of the pandemic, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris. She said the city will encourage activities such as car parades through neighborhoods to view Halloween decorations and drive-in trick or treating where a bag of candy is passed into a car.
"We want our children to have a good time," said Caulton-Harris.
Springfield appears to be one of the first municipalities in Massachusetts to announce its Halloween plans.
Asked about Halloween last week, Gov. Charlie Baker said his administration would consult with the state Department of Public Health and municipal officials before announcing any guidance.
“Whatever we would choose to offer on this issue is going to be reflective of the fact that different communities are in different places with respect to how they handle this,” Baker said.
The city of Salem, Massachusetts, which annually sees 500,000 visitors for a month-long Halloween-themed festival, is scaling back or canceling many of the official events and activities. But as of now, Salem will still allow families to go trick or treating.