Somerville has asked its residents not to trick-or-treat:

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the Somerville Board of Health announced Halloween guidance and related updates today. They strongly urge all community members to forgo trick-or-treating in favor of lower-risk activities as defined by the Centers for Disease Control such as at-home activities and holiday crafts.
They link to MA and CDC guidelines.

I have generally supported Somerville's cautious approach, closing more quickly and opening more slowly than surrounding towns, keeping schools remote until we can make sure we have sufficient ventilation, organizing outdoor enrichment activities for students, etc. But I don't understand how any town that allows indoor dining can categorize trick-or-treating as impermissibly high risk?

At this stage in the pandemic, we know that transmission primarily happens through shared air, and outdoor activities are far safer than indoor ones. Especially indoor ones where people are, as in restaurants, generally unmasked and talking. Traditional trick-or-treating, where everyone rings the same doorbells, frequents centralized trick-or-treating corridors, gets quite close to each other, and reaches into the same bowls of candy, I agree is risky. The core experience of trick-or-treating, however, is walking around outside in costumes, going to neighbors' houses, and collecting candy. This can be done with very low risk:

  • Houses that want to participate should plan socially distanced distribution. Participation is even more optional than usual.
  • Trick-or-treat within walking distance of your house.
  • Don't go anywhere where you won't be able to social distance.
  • Set expectations with your kids about this being more of a search than usual, and clarify there will be less candy.
  • Only acquire candy if you're able to do it while keeping distance.
  • Wear a face mask, not just a Halloween mask.
  • Wait to eat until you're home.

Our fall and winter holidays and traditions are full of gathering indoors with food and song. Trick-or-treating is a rare exception, and we should make the most of it.

I'm planning to take the kids out tomorrow night, and I think if we're thoughtful about what we need to do differently it won't be any more risky than our usual evening walks around the neighborhood.

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Our trick-or-treat night was last night (the 30th, and yes that's stupid, I know). We set up a slide for treats and wore (covid) masks. Nearly all the kids were properly masked, and the adults who weren't tended to stay well off the sidewalks. We were fully prepared for about 40 kids with little paper boxes containing a chocolate, a fruity candy, a sticker, and a toy. Based on previous years, we figured that would be ample supply, but it was gone in <45 minutes and we were sending loose candy down the chute for the rest of the evening. With parties being too risky this year, it seems like our community came out to trick-or-treat like never before in self defense. We probably saw north of a hundred kids!

We also took our 4yo around the neighborhood. We made it clear that we were looking for socially distant treats, and we found plenty (though we had the only candy slide on the block; most people set up tables and spread out treats)! I haven't seen the kid so excited very often this year; he was literally wiggling with glee.

But I don't understand how any town that allows indoor dining can categorize trick-or-treating as impermissibly high risk?

I think it's about risk versus reward, rather than risk per se.  If you allow indoor dining, the restaurant owners make money and won't fail or need bailouts (as often).  Trick or treating doesn't offer as much benefit economically.

(Not endorsing this reasoning, just trying to empathize).

I think you made a good effort at intellectual charity!

I agree all around. We're putting a table in front of our house and spreading out a bunch of little bags of candy on it, then off to trick-or-treat!