First the coronavirus caused us to be shut up in our homes and made many of us hoard toilet paper. Next we had to cancel our spring holidays such as Easter. And then the city closed the public pool as the state closed movie theaters, and halted parades, parties, weddings, church … and now, at a time by which we thought this would be over, COVID-19 is stealing much of the fun out of our HALLOWEEN.
Halloween is one of Montpelier’s most beloved events of the year as evidenced by the hordes of tiny witches, police officers, wizards, fairies, farmers, and dinosaurs crowding downtown Montpelier each year on Oct. 31, usually with an adult or two dressed up as well.
The Oct. 23 Montpelier City Manager’s report explains, “The Montpelier Mayor, City Council, and City Manager recommend that residents refrain from Halloween Trick-or-Treating this year. Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in the city are a reminder that the pandemic continues and that Montpelier is as vulnerable as any other area. Neither the city nor Montpelier Alive will be sponsoring or holding any organized Halloween activities such as downtown trick-or-treating or the Recreation Center party.”
The report goes on to note that the city is going by information from the Vermont Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control for public health guidelines, as it has since the beginning of the pandemic. The report clarifies that the CDC has not specifically recommended a cancellation of trick-or-treating, but that trick-or-treating is a risky activity that puts those who participate at risk of becoming infected.
The state has not taken any official position with regard to trick-or-treating, but the CDC has released guides for low-, moderate-, and high-risk activities. People who choose to celebrate Halloween should understand the risks and are advised to follow guidelines from the federal CDC.
The CDC website points out that ‘virtual’ celebrating presents the lowest risk for spread, while in-person gatherings pose varying levels of danger depending on mitigation efforts (mask-wearing, social distancing, etc.). The organization advises people to keep in mind whether a known COVID-19 infection exists within the community when deciding how safe it is to circulate and gather in that community. Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings as well. Also, longer-lasting events are more dangerous than shorter gatherings. In addition, the number of people gathered in one place is important. The more people, the likelier someone is to be exposed to a person with a COVID-19 infection. The CDC also warns against wearing a costume mask over a safety mask because it could hinder breathing, or wearing a costume mask instead of a safety mask because the nose and mouth may not be properly covered. Wearing a holiday-themed mask is offered as an alternative.
The following holiday activities are suggested as a replacement to trick-or-treating:
carving pumpkins, decorating your house, having a virtual Halloween costume contest, and having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search at your house with household members. People can also walk (socially distanced) or drive around looking at Halloween decorations.
People who know they have encountered a person who recently tested positive for the coronavirus should not attend any events whatsoever, nor should people with symptoms of an illness.
This is the kind of advice we can look forward to going into the winter holidays, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Dia de los Muertos, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Years.