By Sandy Rhodes
It’s up to each municipality in Erie County whether or not trick-or-treating will happen this year, and the Pennsylvania and Erie County departments of health will provide guidance to ensure everyone’s safety.
That is according to Erie County Department of Health Director Melissa Lyons, who spoke during the weekly press conference headed by Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper on Sept. 16.
“We believe there is a way to celebrate the holiday safely,” Lyons said, adding such events as parades may be discouraged because there could be larger gatherings than would be allowed.
“Trick-or-treating may be allowed to happen safely because individuals are wearing masks appropriately,” Lyons said. “They can display candy on tables or place candy and snacks in bowls. Parents and children can select one item at a time.”
Once the state issues its guidance, the county may tweak the information before it’s funneled to the local municipalities.
“If it seems like it could use some additional interpretation we are always happy to do that from the Erie County Department of Health and then we stay consistent as we communicate with others in the county. We are looking forward to working with municipalities to help them make the best decision so that every can begin to enjoy the holidays that we look forward to.”
Dahlkemper added that people need to accept and be compassionate on how others choose to celebrate or not celebrate Halloween.
“We need understand where we are comfortable and what we are willing to be involved with and what we are not,” Dahlkemper said. “I hope everyone has compassion and understanding if their neighbors decide they are not comfortable doing Halloween or trick-or-treating this year and they shut their lights off and keep their doors closed and that we all respect their wishes,” Dahlkemper said. “And we also respect their wishes if your neighbor is someone who be part of Halloween and you don’t.
“Please, everyone, show compassion to each other. We have our own levels of comfort when it comes to COVID-19, especially when it comes to any kind of gathering.”
Local municipalities are starting to approve having trick-or-treat hours on Oct. 31, including Harborcreek, Edinboro and Lake City.
Keeping children safe is always a priority and now that school districts are back in session after being off since March 13, county officials are keeping a close eye on if the number of cases increases.
So far, so good, Lyons said.
“There has not been a remarkable increase, meaning a trend going in an upward direction, that would be overly concerning with school activities,” Lyons said, praising the efforts of school districts who worked throughout the summer to come up with plans to welcome students back in a safe manner.
“Every school district should be very proud of the work they did,” Lyons said.
This week’s numbers regarding children who have been affected are 2% for ages 5 to 9 and 6% for ages 10 to 18.
As flu season approaches, Dahlkemper said this year it is more important than ever to get a flu shot.
“The flu season is a big concern,” Dahlkemper said. “I encourage people to get a flu shot. If you always get one, get one as soon as you can. If you have never gotten one, get one this year.”
She said the shots are available now at most pharmacies in Erie County.
“It is imperative that people get a flu shot this year because it will be very difficult to differentiate between the flu and COVID-19,” Dahlkemper said. “By the time COVID-19 hit Erie County, the flu season was waning so we don’t even now what it would be like to if someone got hit with both.
“Protect your yourself and protect your family.”