Gov. Baker says trick-or-treating can be safer than 'thousands of indoor Halloween parties.'
SALEM, Mass. — There have been plenty of holidays and events canceled this year because of the pandemic — but trick-or-treating won't be among them.
Gov. Charlie Baker, visiting Halloween central, said there would be no state mandates related to the spooky holiday.
"We're going to put out plenty of guidance ... But we're going to expect people to make decisions on their own at the local level," he said. "The reason we're not canceling Halloween is because that would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties, which would have been a heck of a lot worse for public safety and for the spread of the virus than outdoor organized and supervised trick-or-treating."
The governor said there were some very simple things that can be done to safely manage children and participants in trick-or-treating, and there's always the option to opt out. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has posted guidance to help ghouls and ghosts to remain infection free.
Berkshire communities are determining how they will deal with door-to-door to distribution of candy. North Adams is holding trick-or-treat and issued a list of cautions; some towns are considering a central outdoor location or limiting hours.
Crowds are still expected to descend on Salem this month despite that fact there has been no marketing. Mayor Kim Driscoll told the Salem News on Monday that it was busier than she would haved liked during the novel coronavirus.
"There's no question there will be people in Salem in October, it's like the swallows going home to Capistrano," said the governor. "But the work that the mayor and her team have done to establish a culture here of wearing masks and social distancing and recognizing and understanding the issues associated with this is pretty powerful."
Baker on Tuesday was in the city with lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack for announcements of Shared Streets & Spaces grant. Salem has received two grants through the $10 million program, which has attracted more than 300 applications and funded more than 100 projects to improve pedestrian spaces and outdoor dining.
Driscoll said there was no question of celebrating Halloween in Salem — "we're purists" — and that the city is considering working the Board of Health to develop guidelines. There will be families and plenty of tourists making decisions on how they will participate, she said. "We're hopeful we can provide guidance without putting any mandates in place."
The city has put effort into developing a mask ambassador program, which has local volunteers downtown to gently remind people of the need to mask, how to properly wear one and to pass them out to those who need them. These numbers are tracked to give the city an idea of compliance as part of creating a culture of wearing masks.
"It's not 100 percent, there are folks from out of town for whom wearing masks for them is a political decision and we have folks with health conditions who can't wear masks," Driscoll said. "We're getting 95 percent compliance by educating people with downtown ambassadors, we feel that's working."
Baker described COVID-19 as "a brutal vicious disease" when asked about the president downplayed his own infection after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday.
"This is a very contagious virus and it can have horrible consequences for people. Period," said the governor. "Part of what creates this sense of 'oh, it's not that bad' is there are many people who will get it and not show any symptoms but they're perfectly capable of giving it to all kinds of people who will be horribly, negatively affected by it. I think all of us in public life, and I would include the president in this category, need to carry the message that while this thing may not be bad for some it can be deadly for others."
Baker noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing masks to prevent transmission. He said he and Polito were grateful that the message coming elected officials and leaders at all levels has been the same on masking, social distancing and sanitizing.
"If we are serious about being all in this together, we all need to do the things that stop the spread and that starts with wearing a face covering," the governor said.
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Staff Member Tests Positive for COVID-19 at ServiceNet Shelter
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at ServiceNet's winter homeless shelter in the former St. Joseph High School.
On Monday morning, ServiceNet became aware that the shelter employee produced a positive test.
The employee was asymptomatic and had not been to work since Wednesday of last week, Senior Vice President of Shelter & Housing Jay Sacchetti said.
ServiceNet has an emergency protocol that occurs in the case that a visitor or employee tests positive for the virus in any of their group homes or shelters.
The shelter did not shut down for the night, but went into quarantine and will test all employees and guests Wednesday. Since learning of the positive case, the shelter has been open 24/7, while it is normally only open around the clock on weekends and holidays.
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