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Western New York communities differ on trick-or-treating during COVID times

Some discourage the tradition, while others stress personal responsibility. The COVID-19 pandemic looms over how some will choose to celebrate it.

AMHERST, N.Y. — When it comes to trick or treating this year some folks really have the "spirit" when it comes to spooky decorations for their homes.

But the lingering specter of the COVID-19 pandemic looms over how some will choose to celebrate it. For some it even raises political criticism.   

Like the City of Buffalo and Erie County, Town of Amherst officials are suggesting that parents, kids, and residents in general put door to door regular trick or treating on hold for this year with COVID concerns. They are especially asking them to avoid any indoor events.

Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa said, "We're discouraging traditional trick or treating. What we realize is that the transfer of candy right through a door, hand-to-hand, that type of thing, that really doesn't work with the pandemic." 

Obviously they can't outright cancel Halloween because there is no real way to enforce it. That's why if people still want to do so, Amherst says to do it safely with masks, social distancing, and no large crowds between the hours of 6 to 8 p.m. on Halloween. 

Other community leaders in the City of Niagara Falls, Cheektowaga, Hamburg, and Kenmore-Tonawanda have a more nuanced approach. They say take precautions, but if you want to trick-or-treat, do so responsibly.

"It's a personal decision that parents have to make with their children. And that's kind of where we threw it into their laps. And if they want to go out, we believe it being an outdoor activity -- not an indoor activity, it being outdoors -- that you can safely go out and do trick or treating. Respecting other people's rights maybe that they don't want to participate."

Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger says if people don't want to take part, keep the porch lights off and just don't answer the door bell or knock. 

Emminger, who suffered and recovered from his own bout with COVID-19 earlier this year, also has these strong recommendations attached for the trick or treaters and their parents or other family members.

"Everyone has to wear a mask if you're trick-or-treating, including the people who are distributing the candy or handing the candy out," he said. "OK, so you have to wear a mask, you should be socially distancing, you shouldn't be going out in a large crowd.

"You should be going out with your siblings, or maybe a friend and your parents. They should be trying to social distance."

Emminger further points out they felt families should be allowed to safely trick-or-treat because other upcoming holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's could be severely impacted due to the pandemic. 

Also, when it comes to candy distribution, people may just want to leave it on their porch in a bowl. Or as Kulpa points out: "Working with different block clubs, the homeowner's organizations, some of them are (going to) leave the candy by the end of the driveway on a table and kids are using tongs. And there's some people who are building candy chutes or slides I guess if you will."

One other variation is the so called trunk-or-treat. North Tonawanda will hold one this coming Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. in the Pine Woods Park.

A family who brings a can of food as a donation can drive through a "Haunted Havoc" with various Halloween scenes and then get a treat bag at the end. Anyone taking part is encouraged to dress in a costume and decorate their vehicle if they choose. They must stay in their vehicle. 

For more information you can go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state, or your local government website.