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No masks required: Polk County allowing for fairly normal Halloween with trick-or-treating permitted

The county has not required masks for trick-or-treaters. The CDC and local doctors warn that celebrating Halloween in traditional fashion could be dangerous.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Despite a rise in Florida's percent positivity, Polk County is moving forward with a fairly normal Halloween.

They are letting families decide whether or not they want to go trick-or-treating and also making masks optional.

Grant Starr is thrilled to be taking his 5-year-old Macy trick-or-treating.

"If we can be safe, we can take precautions to give them a good Halloween. I just think that as a parent it really means a lot to me," Starr said.

The CDC, however, has put trick-or-treating on their 'higher risk activities' list.

Local doctors, like infectious disease expert, Dr. John Sinnott, with USF Health, agree. “We have no business going to strangers houses, they don't want us, we don't want them," Dr. Sinnott said. “And that's a perfect way to spread this illness.”

The CDC has a number of recommendations on how to celebrate and how NOT to celebrate this year.

Its high-risk activities list includes:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating 
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors

Lower risk activities that it offers as alternatives include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Starr feels confident that he can enjoy Halloween with his daughter and still stay safe.

"As far as my little girl and myself, we're just going to practice socially distance trick or treating from afar. Hopefully my neighbors take suit as well, he said."

Starr plans to leave a cauldron of pre-packaged candy bags on his porch so that trick-or-treaters who come to his house can also enjoy while mitigating some risk.

Other residents in Polk County are also making adjustments to their normal fall plans. First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland is subbing out their annual Fall Festival for a ‘costumes and candy’ parade.

“When we distribute the candy, we've pre-packaged all that candy with volunteers that are adhering to safety measures," explained Reverend Zac McGowen, the associate pastor of evangelism at First Presbyterian Church in Lakeland, Florida.

Parade-goers will be encouraged to wear masks and will be spread out by 8 to 10 feet.

McGowen was pleased to provide an alternative activity this year at a time when he feels local families need it most, “I mean, we felt like we had to balance a care for people's mental, our mental and emotional health, and their physical and medical health.”

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