We have to be Covid-19 safe this Halloween

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Bethany Abrams

Graphic by Phoenix Agyepong.
When it comes to Halloween, we have many traditions we partake in, including parties and trick-or-treating to show off our costumes and have a good time. However, I believe that with the pandemic we have to work on approaching Halloween in the safest way possible, even if that means forfeiting some traditions.
Augustana College has its own Halloween traditions, such as the annual Hallowdreen. Around Halloween, students in Andreen Residence Hall host an event where the children of faculty and staff are invited to trick or treat in the building. Each floor is decorated with Halloween decorations and candy is handed out to the children, and even children from nearby elementary schools are invited.
However, I believe our typical Halloween traditions need to either be postponed or undergo some changes in order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. For instance, the way we held Hallowdreen in the past unfortunately violates Augustana College’s COVID-19 policies of social distancing, limiting contact with others, keeping your friend group small, and having no outside visitors in the residence halls.
In general, the CDC advises against trick-or-treating by explaining that “participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door” is considered to be a high risk activity.
Trick-or-treating is not the only high-risk activity that the CDC advises against. Attending costume parties or haunted houses indoors with a large amount of people is advised against. As we have learned, indoor gatherings tend to pose more risk than outdoor gatherings, especially if the building has poor ventilation.
Since Halloween is on a Saturday, it may be tempting for students to attend costume parties or large gatherings. I sincerely hope that the Augustana College community refrains from this temptation in order to be safe and not spread the virus.
Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, told AARP that, “The rules of virus transmission don’t change because it’s a holiday.” I couldn’t agree more with her statement, and being aware of this allows us to embark on a safer Halloween. Some of our typical traditions can be adjusted in a way to make them more COVID-19 friendly.
For instance, each neighborhood has been working hard to adjust trick-or-treating that allows children to still get candy in a more COVID-19 safe. Local news station OurQuadCities explains how trick-or-treating is still happening but with specific guidelines, such as wearing a face mask, going with members of your household only, limiting the number of houses you go to, and sanitizing before eating the candy.
If trick-or-treaters and those handing out the candy are as safe as possible with the use of sanitizing and washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing, then the spread of germs is less likely to occur.
However, I believe that there are other ways to celebrate Halloween that are less risky than trick-or-treating, even if things are as safe as possible.
The CDC mentions a way to trick-or-treat that completely eliminates the risk of going from house-to-house: a scavenger hunt! Parents can hide candy around or outside of the house, and children can wear their costume while they search for candy.
Furthermore, there are other activities that do not pose as much of a risk. Among these include carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household, or even with friends at a safe distance. Carving pumpkins has been a typical Halloween tradition, and being able to still partake in it allows people to still feel festive.
In fact, Augustana College has utilized the idea of carving and painting pumpkins in both Viking Fest and OktoberFest, and things were as safe as they could be. Students put paint on their plates and brought it to their designated table that was socially distant from others. If possible, this can be a fun activity for students to do on Halloween day.
Another low-risk activity students may wish to participate in is to watch Halloween movies in your dorm room with your roommate. Augustana College permits that one other student is allowed in the room and only with permission of their roommate. Thus, it may be a viable option for students who wish to spend time with friends and do something festive, Perhaps you and your roommate can even dress up to maintain that Halloween spirit.
Creating Halloween plans is no doubt going to be a different experience this year compared to the past. It may be tempting to fall back on old traditions considering it is a holiday, but I believe it is more important to prioritize protecting ourselves and others from the virus that continues to plague the world.
And so, I encourage those both inside and outside of the Augustana College community to have fun this Halloween season in a cautious way by participating in the lower risk activities listed above. We have the opportunity to formulate new, safe traditions and make this Halloween day unforgettable.