Like almost all events in 2020, and to the dismay of eager trick-or-treaters, Halloween has presented itself as a serious health concern this year. Riddled with candy-seeking children, jack o’lanterns, and elaborate costumes, the fate of the highly anticipated celebration is uncertain. Due to the pandemic, the safety and advisability of traditional Halloween festivities must be accounted for. In order to align with proper COVID-19 safety protocols, Halloween must be altered.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), activities such as trick-or-treating door-to-door, passing out candy, and crowded parties pose serious health risks, especially for those most vulnerable. Even when wearing masks and social distancing, the spread of COVID-19 when trick-or-treating is almost inevitable. The practice of traveling from house to house would also make it very difficult to monitor an outbreak and perform contact tracing.
The City of Berkeley released a guidance outlining the specific activities that are prohibited by state and local orders, including attending any large gatherings (even if they are held outdoors). Haunted houses, indoor mazes, and activities involving sharing food and drinks outside of one’s immediate bubble are strictly prohibited.
Safety should be high on the priorities list, as our actions during this pandemic have a ripple effect on those around us. In order to ensure and practice safety, a modified version of traditional Halloween activities is the best option for this year’s celebration. Eliminating any activities that pose severe health risks is necessary, but with a dash of creativity and imagination, a lower risk celebration can be achieved.
Where risks abound, many creative solutions lie. Many of these adaptations can serve to reduce, if not eliminate, the disappointment of Halloween fanatics. For example, one-way-trick-or-treating is one of many great alternatives for families or teenagers who enjoy distributing candy to kids. This process involves providing trick-or-treaters with individually wrapped candy divided in separate bags and pre-assembled safely, with masks and clean hands. The bags would be left outside on a doorstep, porch, or driveway. This would be a low to moderate risk activity, as it would limit potential contamination through touched surfaces as well as face-to-face interaction. Inventive solutions such as one-way-trick-or-treating are the kinds of options that should be encouraged during Halloween this year.
Overall, it is crucial that gatherings are small. A myriad of activities, low in numbers and held outdoors, can be conducted among teenagers and still uphold Halloween tradition. Projecting a scary movie, carving pumpkins while socially distanced, and any activities within one’s family are all great alternatives. A heavy weight falls on the shoulders of young people this year. During holidays such as Halloween, which are specific to younger ages, we dictate the safety of our communities. As teenagers approach adulthood, missing out on the last few years of these fun activities can be very disappointing. However, considering that the threats of COVID-19 are much greater for older generations and those with pre-existing conditions, it is imperative that we look beyond our own desires.
While safety would be best achieved if all Halloween festivities were cancelled or avoided, it is unlikely that spirited youngsters will completely abandon such a fun celebration. Implementing safety precautions is realistic and can serve as an effective balance. As Halloween approaches, we need to take into consideration the repercussions of our actions and look out for not only ourselves, but our communities.