Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy says Halloween, the favorite American holiday for most children, will take place as scheduled at the end of this month.

However, Murphy and state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli Monday announced several guidelines designed to make trick-or-treating and Halloween celebrations safer.

The governor said first and foremost, the state Health Department is encouraging everyone to wear a mask that covers both the nose and mouth. He then glanced at State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan and said “no Pat, that Jabba the Hutt mask that you are considering is not a substitute.”

(In multiple Star Wars movies Jabba the Hutt, an odd looking giant frog-like figure, was known as one of the galaxy’s most powerful gangsters. There was no word in the movies whether his species could contract the novel coronavirus.)

"A costume mask does not count as it does not provide the necessary level of protection,” Murphy said. He added: “You may wish to dress as a knucklehead this Halloween but we don’t want anyone to act like one.”

He said the guidance also strongly encourages that instead of placing treats directly in the bags of trick-or-treaters “or filling communal bowls that multiple hands will reach into, that treats be arranged in such a way that they can be quickly and safety accessed without multiple pieces being touched.”

The Centers for Disease Control lists "traditional" trick-or-treating or trunk-or-treat events as "high risk" in its own guidance. It doesn't specifically address the sort of measures Murphy's administration suggests to make low-contact candy distribution possible.

Persichilli said this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, “those who plan to trick-or-treat should limit their groups to current household members, consider staying local, and limit the number of homes on their route.”

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She said social distancing should be practiced by all trick-or-treaters who are not in the same household, and “for those putting out treats the best option is to arrange individually packaged candy so that trick-or-treaters can grab and go.”

Persichilli pointed out those providing treats can also put them out in bowls on a porches or tables, or some other place that can be easily accessed.

Murphy said “we are also strongly encouraging all Halloween activities to be outdoors, as we know that the biggest threats for viral spread exist indoors.”

He noted indoor parties will be subject to the state's ongoing size limits — currently at 25 percent of a room's normal capacity or 150 people, whichever is less.

He said in many New Jersey communities Halloween has become a real tradition and “we want to ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy Halloween but we also want to ensure everyone does that safely.”

Persichilli said if you do hand out candy, which is not recommended, you should limit contact with children. "Wear a mask when individuals come to the door, and regularly wash your hands," she said.

She added any candy handed out should be commercially packaged and non-perishable.

The commissioner also offered guidance for “truck or treating” scenarios, where trick-or-treaters access candy that’s left in the trunk of a motor vehicle, or multiple vehicles in a parking lot.

She said people should “limit the number of participating cars to ensure adequate space for social distancing and minimize crowds, and design the event the event in a long line rather than a circle to ensure social and physical distancing.”

She also said no one should participate in Halloween activities if they have had a known exposure to COVID-19, have symptoms of the illness or have been diagnosed with coronavirus and are in the midst of a quarantine.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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