Guidance for COVID-19 Halloween Celebrations Offered by New Jersey Department of Health

Halloween will be celebrated in New Jersey this year.

“Yes, Halloween is on,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at his press briefing Oct. 5 on the day the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) released its guidance on how residents can celebrate holiday this year. “We know that in numerous communities, Halloween is more than just a fun activity, but a real tradition. We want to ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy Halloween but we also want to ensure that everyone does that safely and responsibly.”

The department is offering guidance on how to trick or treat, the handing out of candy and going to traditional activities such as hayrides and haunted houses. Additionally, health officials want all celebrating the holiday to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth, follow social distancing guidelines and make sure to wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.  

Don’t be a Knucklehead

“You may wish to dress as a knucklehead this Halloween, but we don’t want anyone to act like one,” joked Murphy. “We are strongly encouraging all Halloween activities to be outdoors, as we know that the biggest threats for viral spread exist indoors. And as always, parties are subject to both indoor and outdoor gathering limits.”

NJDOH officials want residents to plan early and identify safer alternatives for traditional Halloween celebrations that often involve crowds, close contact between individuals, and activities in closed spaces that could cause the coronavirus to spread. 

Officials noted costume masks are not an acceptable substitute for cloth or disposable masks. Individuals should consider minimizing interaction and contact with others who are not a part of their household. 

Trick or Treating Rules

NJDOH wants those planning to trick-or-treat to limit their groups to current household members, consider staying local, and limit the number of houses on their route. Candy should be commercially packaged and non-perishable while considering individual nonfood “treats” to avoid sharing of food.  

For those putting out treats, state officials want residents to consider three options:

  • Good option: Limit interaction or contact with trick-or-treaters, wear a mask when individuals come to the door, and regularly wash hands. 
  • Better option: Leave a treat bowl on a porch or table or in a place where it may be easily accessed while adhering to social distancing requirements. 
  • Best option: Arrange individually packaged candy so that trick or treaters can grab and go without accessing a shared bowl. 

For those participating in a Trunk or Treat event, the state’s department of health wants organizers to limit the number of participating cars to ensure adequate space for social distancing and minimize crowds as well as follow the outdoor gatherings limitations in effect at the time.

Organizing Guidelines

Organizers are expected to design events in a long line, rather than a circle to ensure social and physical distancing to discourage crowding and consider having assigned times or multiple shifts to minimize crowding during the event. 

For those holding a Halloween party, it should be held outdoors; if indoors, the venue is subject to the limitations currently in effect on indoor gatherings. Activities that require close contact and/or shared items—such as bobbing for apples—are to be avoided. 

Haunted Houses

If hosting a haunted house, organizers are to ensure visitors maintain an appropriate distance by staggering start times and limiting occupancy. The state suggests a better option would be to host an outdoor haunted house without live performers. 

Hayrides should limit the number of passengers per ride and keep openings to the same party. Any shared materials should be cleaned and sanitized after each use. Corn mazes should only permit individuals to proceed in one direction, should limit occupancy according to the applicable restrictions in effect at the time, and should avoid use of shared materials. 

Organizers hosting these events are encouraged to take reservations and/or sell tickets in advance. 

Daily Data

As of Oct. 6, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 209,342 with 651 new cases and nine new deaths were reported over the weekend, bringing that total to 14,360. The state probable death is 1,787, bringing the overall total to 16,147.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,901, followed by Bergen at 1,807, Hudson with 1,359, Passaic at 1,115, Morris at 687, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 241, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 1 was 2.6%. By region, the North has a rate of 2.1%, Central at 2.9% and the South at 2.6%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.26 from 1.27 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 553 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 229 in the North, 170 in the Central and 154 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 126 are in intensive care units and 43 on ventilators, while 32 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 22,827, followed by Essex at 21,407, Hudson at 20,954, Middlesex at 19,990, Passaic at 19,315, Union at 17,944, Ocean at 14,489, Monmouth at 12,386, Camden at 10,170, Mercer at 8,742, Morris at 8,011, Burlington at 7,343, Somerset at 5,934, Gloucester at 4,812, Atlantic at 4,286, Cumberland at 3,820, Sussex at 1,547, Warren at 1,463, Hunterdon at 1,400, Salem at 1,094 and Cape May at 1,055.

Another 353 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 11 outbreaks involving 43 cases have been reported in seven of the 21 counties in the Garden State. For North Jersey, Bergen County has one confirmed outbreak with three cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 146 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,090 of the cases, broken down between 3,740 residents and 2,350 staff. 

Cumulatively, 733 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,189 residents and 13,684 staff, for a total of 38,873 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,169 on Oct. 5. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,790 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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