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State health officials warn against normal ‘trick-or-treat’

Virus risk is too high

OW Staff Writer | 10/16/2020, midnight

Echoing guidelines issued earlier by Los Angeles County, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary said this week trick-or-treating for Halloween is being “strongly discouraged’’ across California due to the threat of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 continues to pose an important risk, as we say time and time again, so some of the traditional Halloween celebrations such as parties, door-to-door trick-or-treating, we know pose a high risk of spreading COVID, and are therefore strongly discouraged,’’ Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “We suggest families, given this, should plan now on safer alternatives.’’

The state’s newly released health guidance for Halloween largely mirrors recommendations issued last month by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Those local recommendations included a ban on parties or large gatherings. The county initially barred trick-or-treating, but quickly backed down, listing such activity as “not recommended.’’

While also saying large gatherings are banned, Ghaly noted that the state recently loosened its restrictions on get-togethers, but said such events should be limited to no more than three households.

He urged families to celebrate Halloween at home, while gathering “virtually’’ with friends or extended family.

“Virtual celebrations create a number of new opportunities for how to celebrate Halloween,’’ Ghaly said, suggesting activities such as virtual costume contests or pumpkin-carving contests.

“What a fun way to reconnect with friends and people you haven’t seen in some time,’’ he said.

He said families can also consider at-home activities, such as “creating a haunted house or candy hunt, having a scary movie night, painting faces and carving pumpkins, decorating your backyard or your home, whatever you have, designing face masks that match your Halloween costume, sharing treats with your household.’’

Ghaly conceded that trick-or-treating is a cherished part of Halloween, but such activity could easily spread the virus.

“The whole act of going door to door in groups, ringing doorbells, digging into buckets of delicious candy create a risk of spreading COVID-19,’’ he said. “The fact that positive cases are hard to discover and probably really challenging to contract-trace also pose challenges that we feel like are too great. And during this hard time we know the importance of Halloween. We believe that we’ve outlined a number of important activities that can supplement and create alternatives in lieu of that trick-or-treating that so many people look forward to.’’