Amherst prepares for Halloween weekend Covid enforcement

  • Signs near Amherst Town Hall remind people that masks are required. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/28/2020 6:50:15 AM

AMHERST — Usually public safety fears surrounding Halloween in a college town are the large parties, disturbances and excessive consumption of alcohol during celebrations of the holiday.

But with the pandemic still ongoing, a major concern for Amherst officials is the potential spread of coronavirus infection during get-togethers.

To prepare for the weekend, extensive outreach to college students living off campus has already taken place, with the town’s COVID ambassadors, accompanied by police officers, fanning out to various homes around town last Saturday.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Tuesday that he was able to accompany one of these “knock and talks” to see the ambassadors, who prepared goodie bags in advance of their visits, talk with students about how to remain safe.

“They covered a very large area,” Bockelman said.

So far this semester, the only outbreak of COVID-19 among off-campus University of Massachusetts students is believed to have started at a party with just eight guests. With colder weather approaching, and the possibility of the first snowfall of the season on Friday, Bockelman said gatherings outside might not be possible.

“The nervousness is parties may move indoors,” Bockelman said.

Public safety will have an increased presence during the weekend, with more police officers on patrol and firefighter/ paramedics ready to respond.

“We’re staffing up as if it’s a regular weekend, with the hope that it’s not,” Bockelman said.

The COVID-19 hotline will be staffed both Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m. for people to make complaints about violations of protocols aimed at keeping the community safe.

For residents who want to learn more about Halloween weekend, they are invited to participate in the weekly community chat at noon Thursday, featuring Police Capt. Gabe Ting and Katherine Newman, who oversees the ambassador program.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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