ROCKPORT — Town health officials called for a ban on trick-or-treating, but selectmen believe trying to stop the Halloween tradition is impractical.

Rockport officials do plan on greatly limiting the scope of trick-or-treating in Rockport this year.

The Board of Health and selectmen met Tuesday night at a join Zoom meeting to discuss specifics of Halloween this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Board of Health and selectmen disagreed on how the town should handle the upcoming holiday. 

Both groups believe the unfettered trick-or-treating of years past is too risky at the moment considering a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases around Cape Ann. Rockport has less than five active COVID-19 cases, according to Town Administrator Mitch Vieira’s CodeRed community update on Monday. However, Gloucester reported eight new cases over the course of 24 hours this week.

Each Board of Health member suggested trick-or-treating be banned this year.

“We need to be more cautious than cavalier,” Board of Health member Barbara McCarthy said. 

Selectmen, however, believe a ban to be impractical and unrealistic.

“I don’t want our officers to go around arresting Spiderman and princesses for trick-or-treating,” said Selectmen Don Campbell. 

Police Chief John Horvath, who was on the Zoom call, shared similar thoughts.

“No matter what we choose to do,” Horvath said, “people will still go out.”

Selectman Sarah Wilkinson suggested coming up with a list of best practices for parents of young children who find it imperative to go trick-or-treating. One suggestion is that trick-or-treaters stay in their immediate neighborhood. Selectmen Paul Murphy agreed to help Wilkinson in drafting these suggestions. The list is expected to be presented for approval when selectmen next meet on Thursday, Oct. 22. At the top, the list will mention that the Board of Health unanimously decided against any and all public Halloween activities. 

Plans to hold a trick-or-treating event with social distancing downtown were shot down at the meeting. Selectman Ross Brackett worked with Cultural District member Mechelle Brown on a RSVP-only event where children go door-to-door to select Rockport businesses. Other selectmen were against the idea as it could attract a larger crowd than what was initially expected. 

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or

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