Washington Court House City Council has decided that Beggars’ Night in the city will go on this year.
Last week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that local governments will be the entities to decide if Beggars’ Night will take place in each community, and said the Ohio Department of Health would release guidelines encouraging social distancing, face coverings and more.
“Beggars’ Night will be held on the Thursday evening (Oct. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m.) prior to Halloween like it usually is and the health department will put together some suggested guidelines around trick-or-treat,” Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen said during a phone interview on Wednesday. “Certainly if you are in the ‘at-risk’ health group, you are encouraged to think about participating or not.”
Denen said with the event being outside it’s easier to social distance, but he also encouraged residents who have a temperature and/or symptoms of COVID-19 to not participate.
“That is common sense,” Denen said. “If you are in the ‘at-risk’ health group you probably shouldn’t participate either. That is a decision for each person to make.”
The city manager also encouraged parents and kids to be safe during the celebration as they travel around Washington Court House.
“You need to think about the traditional hazards you know,” Denen said. “Kids need to be supervised — especially young kids — you need to be careful that they don’t run out into the street. The drivers that night also need to be conscious of the fact that you will have a lot of kids moving around.”
Also released this week were the Fayette County Public Health (FCPH) recommendations and guidelines as passed down by the ODH and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). FCPH asks that parents, community members and leaders of community organizations review the guidelines released by the ODH and CDC to celebrate safely.
“We know that the parents and children in the community are looking forward to trick-or-treat. It has been a long six months since we received the first report of COVID-19 in our county and we see everyone working so hard to follow the guidelines to get things back to some sense of normality,” said Leigh Cannon, deputy health commissioner. “The decision as to whether or not to allow trick-or-treat events belongs to the individual jurisdictions. Our role is to educate the public about how to stay safe and to provide them with information they need to assess risk and make their personal decisions. Our staff is also available to support community leaders and event organizers by answering questions and reviewing event plans.”
Cannon said that the CDC has categorized door to door trick-or-treating as a higher risk activity. The level of risk is higher for communities experiencing significant spread.
“We are fortunate that we are currently experiencing a downward trend in cases and spread,” Cannon said. “But it is important to remember that Halloween is a month away and the situation could change by that time. Those who do choose to go door to door for Beggars’ Night can lower their risk by following the recommendations put forth by the CDC and ODH. That information can be found on the CDC and ODH websites.”
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 will require continued diligence, but Cannon said that safety is always a consideration at this time of the year.
“As parents, we already think about how to keep our kids safe when we make plans to take them trick-or-treating,” Cannon said. “We make sure their costumes fit right so they don’t trip. We stay on sidewalks when possible, watch for cars, and either wear something reflective or walk in well-lit neighborhoods. And when we get home, we check their candy so they don’t eat anything that was unwrapped or homemade treats from people they don’t know.”
This year, Cannon said, due to COVID-19, they are encouraging parents who do take their children out to add a few more steps to their Beggars’ Night routine to keep their children, families and the community as safe as possible.
According to the press release, the ODH Responsible ReStart Ohio recommendations for parents/guardians are as follows:
• Limit the number of houses you visit while trick-or-treating and ask your children to stay as far from treat-givers as possible. For small children, consider holding the bag for them.
• Allow children to eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid homemade treats made by strangers.
• If your child is at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, contact your doctor before allowing participation in Halloween activities.
• Wipe off candy wrappers with sanitizing wipes when you arrive home. (NOTE: Never wipe unpackaged food with wipes.)
More recommendations for community members include:
• For trick-or-treating, reach out to neighbors to discuss ways to ensure six-foot social distancing, how candy can most safely be distributed, and the need for face coverings.
• Refrain from having children select their own treats from a bowl/common container or set up a hand-sanitizing station. Consider placing treats on porch steps or a table in the driveway with a sign asking children to take only one. Or use other creative ways to distribute treats, such as using a candy “slide” made of PVC pipe, or hanging treats from a wall or fence.
General guidance includes a recommendation to wear a face covering and stay six-feet away from people who are not from your household. Stay home if you are sick. Face coverings should never be placed on children younger than 2 or anyone who cannot easily remove them. Carry hand sanitizer and use it often, especially after coming into contact with frequently touched surfaces and before eating candy.
FCPH said that for other activities that come with the Halloween season, individuals should consider the risk before deciding whether to participate. The CDC has categorized activities by risk level and that information can be found on their website. Events that put individuals in close contact with people outside their households hold greater risk. Avoid events that involve being crowded in a small area or coming into contact with/being touched by others. Halloween parties should be limited to 10 or fewer people and held in an outdoor area where social distancing is possible and should avoid activities, such as bobbing for apples, that foster the spread of infection.
As with any activity, consider the people in your household who may be at greater risk of complications if COVID-19 is brought into the home, such as those with certain health conditions, women who are pregnant, or older family members.
For more information, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.