Public safety officials advise on trick-or-treating during pandemic

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 22, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, officials in Madison Heights and Hazel Park say that kids can still enjoy Halloween by taking simple precautions.

In Hazel Park, official trick-or-treating hours will be 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 31. In Madison Heights, there are no official hours, although it usually starts around dusk and goes for an hour and a half. Police in both cities will have extra patrols on Halloween and the night prior.  

Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines anticipates that less people will be handing out candy due to COVID-19. Seniors may be especially reluctant to participate.

“However, I have seen some creative ways people are planning to hand out candy, such as dropping the candy down a plastic tube into the kid’s trick-or-treat bag, so they can keep their distance from each other,” Haines said.

Haines said he wouldn’t recommend placing a candy bowl on the porch, since the children risk contaminating the candy reaching into the same bowl as everyone else. He also suggests being out in the open rather than confined to a small porch area.

“Another idea would be to set up grab-and-go bags of candy for each child to take,” he said. “That way, they are only touching one bag of candy, and it drastically limits the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.”  

He also encourages homeowners handing out candy to wear masks and gloves, and he advises parents accompanying trick-or-treaters to bring hand sanitizer, clean their children’s hands periodically, and minimize the time they spend at each home near others.

Hazel Park Fire Chief Richard Story is also predicting a decrease in trick-or-treating.

“I see less kids out, and probably a lot of candy left in bowls on front porches,” Story said.

He said that parents with trick-or-treaters might want to wipe down the candy wrappers with cleaning wipes, in addition to checking for any signs of tampering such as ripped packaging.

Story also said to be mindful of open fire sources such as candles, which could cause a costume to catch fire in close proximity. He recommends keeping any Halloween parties outside to reduce the risk of spreading and catching the virus.

The office of Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard also has guidelines for this Halloween, ascribing different risk levels to various Halloween activities.

“Lower risk” activities include pumpkin carving, Halloween decorations, virtual Halloween costume contests, scavenger hunts at home and Halloween movie nights.

“Moderate risk” includes socially distant outdoor costume parades with protective masks, and visiting a pumpkin patch where masks are worn and social distancing is observed.

“Higher risk,” meanwhile, includes traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, trunk or treat where treats are handed out from the trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots, and attending crowded indoor costume parties or haunted houses, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  

Hazel Park Police Chief Brian Buchholz encouraged thoughtfulness.

“We hope that parents counsel their children before they go out. Parents want to make sure the costumes are visible in the dark and that their vision is not obstructed. We also recommend that parents inspect the candy before consuming,” Buchholz said. “We hope that everyone is respectful and kind to each other, so that those that do participate in trick-or-treating will enjoy this year.”