As the first Halloween of the COVID-19 era approached a year ago, the front-and-center question for kids and their parents was whether there would or should be any trick-or-treating. Public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advised against the custom of greeting costumed kids at the door to hand out treats, suggesting instead such safety precautions as leaving individually packaged candy outside for young goblins and ghouls stopping by.

In these parts, communities took a variety of approaches that included spreading out the official trick-or-treating window in an effort to diminish potential crowding and encouraging or sponsoring alternative events. The unusual circumstances also inspired feats of creative engineering, such as the use of chutes with other interacting parts to deliver candy treats to youngsters in a manner reminiscent of the Mouse Trap board game.

This year, the official pronouncements leading up to the second pandemic Halloween are more muted. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last Sunday encouraged partaking of holiday activities, but with the caveat that all, including children, should stay outside, spread out and avoid large gatherings. Otherwise, most local municipalities have said little else this year other than to establish the official trick-or-treating hours for this weekend.

Still, there are some practicalities that parents and their candy-questing children might consider for their own health and that of others, particularly at a time when the delta variant surge has not waned locally as it has elsewhere and when, with vaccines not yet approved for those under 12, most of those ringing the doorbell for treats will be unvaccinated. Certainly incorporating a suitable cloth mask into a costume will not only score creativity points but also reduce risk of virus transmission. Similarly, limiting the size of groups trolling neighborhoods for treats as suggested by CDC’s Walensky will enable kids to spread out more to reduce risk.

Also, as disappointing as it may seem to some trick-or-treaters, coronavirus concern may lead some homeowners to leave their exterior lights off and refrain from handing out treats, or to implement sanitary or other precautions, and their decision deserves to be respected by kids and their parents alike.

Despite all the fun typically associated with Halloween traditions, there have always been a range of safety precautions trick-or-treaters have been urged to heed. These have included warnings to avoid certain kinds of “treats” or situations that may be unsafe. Observing these warnings has never interfered with the fun of dressing up in costume, saying the magic words at neighborhood doors and collecting goodies. Adding a couple more precautions to the list to help keep the coronavirus at bay also seems unlikely to detract from the experience. As Walensky advised, “put on those costumes, stay outside and enjoy your trick-or-treating.”

Also this Halloween, there’s good news for those going out trick-or-treating in this region. At a time when a best-and-worst list can be found on the Internet for just about anything, the lawn care marketplace website Lawn Love has published a ranking of the 2021 best and worst cities for vampires, and neither Keene nor any municipality closer than Springfield, Mass., makes the “best” list. The ranking is of course not a serious one — the report calls it “tongue-in-cheek — or rather teeth-in-neck” — so there’s probably no tourism marketing value to not making the list.

However, one of the criteria used in compiling the list is the number of nearby blood drives and blood centers. In putting out its light-hearted ranking, Lawn Love makes the serious point there’s currently a national blood shortage — “bad news for vampires ... good news for you” — and encourages blood donations. So for parents breathing a sigh of relief that no vampire will be drawing any blood locally this Halloween, giving blood at an upcoming local drive (find one at redcrossblood.org) would also be an appropriate and meaningful way to celebrate Halloween. They can also be relieved that, at least around here, their trick-or-treating kids won’t be getting any garlic treats.

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