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Valley preps for Halloween made scarier by COVID-19 risk

When it comes to Halloween, Ohio is leaving decisions about trick-or-treating up to individual communities. And, in turn, Mahoning Valley communities are letting parents decide.
YOUNGSTOWN — With no state bans on celebrating Halloween, local communities are going to leave it up to parents to decide whether their children will be trick-or-treating this year. 

On Friday, the state issued guidance for end of October celebrations. 

“Decisions on whether to participate should be made by local communities, individuals, and parents/guardians,” the document read.

The state recommends canceling hayrides and haunted houses. To reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus while trick-or-treating, the guidance offers alternative ideas, like a drive-thru event, virtual costume contest or hiding treats at home.

The state is clear on parties: “Do not hold large in-person Halloween parties.” 

Smaller parties should be limited to 10 people or fewer.

The Centers for Disease Control came down harder on trick-or-treating, classifying it as "higher risk." In its guidance issued Monday, the CDC classified Halloween celebrations based on risk.

Low-risk activities include carving pumpkins outside at a safe distance with friends or hosting a virtual Halloween costume contest.

Medium risk activities include an outdoor costume parade or one-way trick-or-treating, in which neighbors prepare individually wrapped bags and set them at the end of their driveways. 

Traditional trick-or-treating and indoor costume parties are considered “higher risk."

The open-ended national and state guidance leaves it up to individual communities to decide. So far, many Mahoning Valley communities are planning to celebrate Halloween as usual. 

Austintown Township was one of the first in the area to set trick-or-treat times: 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31, same as every year, said trustee Jim Davis.

"We just basically told people, 'If you want to trick or treat, send your kids; if you don't want to trick or treat, don't send your kids. If you want to pass out candy, put your light on; if you don't want to pass out candy, don't put your light on'," he said. "We've basically left it up to the community to do what they want."

Poland township trustee Eric Ungaro had a similar perspective: “We’re just extending the offer. You don’t have to go obviously. You can turn the light off if you want."

Poland Township trick-or-treating will take place on Halloween from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

But in light of openings across the state, trick-or-treating doesn’t seem any riskier than kids’ daily lives. 

“Listen if you could have 20 kids in the classroom, you could have kids walk around 20 square miles,” Ungaro said. 

Canfield Township has set trick-or-treat for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31, said trustee Joe Paloski.

Paloski said trustees are encouraging those who participate to follow state and local health guidelines, including wearing face coverings, checking for symptoms before leaving the house and bringing hand sanitizer along.

"It's a nice tradition and if anybody has any health concerns, they don't have to participate," he said. "As a kid, I used to love trick-or-treating. Practicing the guidelines, it should be a pretty safe activity for parents and kids to enjoy."

Paloski noted the event is still subject to change, if it later conflicts with new health orders.

Other news

• According to the latest figures Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 145,850 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 3,002 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County [Adjusted down 1 from Monday]; 1,852 in Trumbull County [Adjusted down 1 from Monday]; and 1,921 in Columbiana County.

• Statewide, there have been 4,635 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, including 279 in Mahoning County; 131 in Trumbull; and 80 in Columbiana. Mahoning County's 279 reported COVID-19 deaths on Monday was fifth among Ohio's 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 644.

• In nearby counties: Stark, 2,771 cases and 168 deaths; Portage, 1,094 cases and 66 deaths; and Ashtabula, 651 cases and 48 deaths.

HB 609, a bill that would give delinquent taxpayers amnesty, is now in front of the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee. If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, the bill would allow businesses or individuals to pay their taxes at face value, without penalties or interest, from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2021.

• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday, there are 151,646 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 8,023 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 81 percent. There have been 703 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 14 deaths; 501 cases in Lawrence County and 23 deaths.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed legislation giving local jurisdictions more control over decisions to resume high school sports and the power to decide whether to allow spectators at games amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since both chambers OK'd the bill by a large majority, a veto override attempt is expected.

Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past is looking for a little help from the community. The organization has been selected as one of 200 nonprofits from across the country to advance to the next round of the State Farm Neighborhood Assist 2020. The top 40 applicants with the most votes will win a $25,000 grant. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 2 at www.neighborhoodassist.com.

• The Youngstown City Health District, Ohio National Guard and Valley places of worship will host free drive-thru COVID-19 testing at various locations in the city. Thursday it will take place at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Parkcliffe Avenue. Preregistration is not required, and anyone can get a test at no cost. See the entire list at MahoningMatters.com.

Mahoning County Public Health has scheduled nine flu shot clinics in October throughout the county.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season. See the complete list on MahoningMatters.com.



Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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