To treat or not to treat.

With all due respect to Hamlet, that apparently isn’t the question — at least according to the National Confectioners Association, which represents U.S. chocolate and candy manufacturers.

In a recent news release, the association’s president and CEO, John Downs, portrayed Halloween and trick-or-treating as a defining test of national character and fortitude. In an otherwise “weird and uncertain year,” Downs said, it serves as a prime example of “the resilient nature of Americans.”

A number of Halloween-themed events are scheduled to take place locally, including a haunted hayride, trick-or-treating opportunities, library story time and a virtual theater production.

In his news release, Downs said 74 percent of young parents think Halloween 2020 is “more important than ever,” and noted that 90 percent of millennial moms say trick-or-treating is “irreplaceable.”

Thankfully, public health officials across the country have reconsidered their initial bans on trick-or-treating, he said, and replaced them with more reasonable guidelines for safe and creative Halloween activities.

“This is the inspired conversation we should have been having all along,” Downs said, “because canceling Halloween is the type of public health directive that makes people skeptical about public health directives.”

The news release — which in a fit of honesty was headlined “Shifting the Halloween 2020 Narrative from ‘If’ to ‘How’ to Celebrate” — also notes that Halloween is the “Super Bowl” of the confection industry, with nearly $5 billion in annual sales.

A second news release acknowledged that this Halloween won’t be business as usual, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“But experts agree,” it continued. “If Americans follow safety guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local authorities, families can enjoy a fun, creative and safe Halloween.”

The association suggested several alternatives for “safe and sweet” trick-or-treating, such as organizing a Halloween scavenger hunt or doing “spooky gift drops” by delivering small bags of candy to friends and neighbors.

It also encouraged people to find creative ways to hand out candy and chocolates. The recommended options include building a “sweet zipline,” a candy chute, a chocolate launcher or, for the more technologically adept, offering a drone delivery system.

Public health and safety officials in Pullman and Lewiston don’t appear to be quite as enthusiastic about the holiday as confectioners are, but they are recommending ways families can keep the pandemic spookiness at bay.

Public Health – Idaho North Central District, for example, said many traditional Halloween activities “can be high-risk for spreading viruses” of all kinds.

“The safest celebrations are those that involve your household members, allow for consistent social distancing … and follow all health and safety measures encouraged for COVID-19,” the agency said.

Its list of low-risk Halloween activities includes pumpkin carving, decorating your house or apartment, holding a virtual costume party or decorating spooky treats.

Moderate-risk activities might include visiting pumpkin patches or orchards, taking part in “one-way” trick-or-treating, where people can grab individual goodie bags while maintaining social distancing, or walking through a haunted forest.

“If screaming will likely occur, greater distance is advised,” the agency notes.

High-risk activities to avoid include “traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door-to-door,” hayrides with people who aren’t part of your household and crowded, indoor costume parties.

The Pullman Police Department is also encouraging people to rethink their Halloween celebrations, given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and fatalities.

Rather than traditional trick-or-treating, “we urge families to consider celebrating Halloween at home,” said Police Chief Gary Jenkins in a news release. “Pumpkin carving, virtual costume parties and festive movie marathons are fun, safer alternatives.”

If families do venture out, Jenkins said, they should follow safety protocols, including wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance and washing their hands frequently.

People who want to hand out treats should use porch or outdoor lights to signal their participation, Jenkins said, and individual treat bags should be offered to visitors, rather than a communal bowl.

He also reminded people that social gatherings in Washington are limited to 10 or fewer people.

Tribune reporter Michael Wells contributed to this story. Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208)791-9168.

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