Halloween trick-or-treating 'strongly discouraged' in California, top health official says
As families begin to prepare for Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos celebrations, the state is strongly suggesting they not trick-or-treat or attend parties, but celebrate with their own households at home or virtually.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, said he wants to see households get creative this holiday season and challenged families to find alternative ways to celebrate that don't include hosting parties, gatherings or trick-or-treating, all of which could contribute to the spread of coronavirus.
"Some traditional Halloween celebrations such as parties and door-to-door trick-or-treating pose a high risk of spreading COVID-19 and are strongly discouraged," Ghaly said during Tuesday's press conference. "If a positive case is discovered, it could be very challenging to conduct appropriate contact tracing."
Ghaly offered suggestions for alternative ways to celebrate Halloween:
- Create a haunted house or candy hunt at home within a single household
- Have a scary movie night with those in your household
- Carve pumpkins or paint faces at home
- Decorate your home or yard
- Design COVID-19 face masks that match your costume
- Share Halloween treats and candy with those in your household
- Enjoy a Halloween-themed dinner outdoors with your household and up to two other households while social distancing
- Have an online costume contest or pumpkin carving contest
- Visit an outdoor Halloween-themed art installation at an outdoor museum
- Tour Halloween displays from the safety of your car
- Go to a drive-in scary movie
Ghaly also offered suggestions for how to safely celebrate Dia De Los Muertos:
- Consider creating altars in a front window or outside so others can view from a distance
- Create a virtual altar space to honor lost loved ones and share it with others
- Visit a cemetery only with those in your household, wear masks and physically distance from others who may be at the cemetery
California already eased its coronavirus restrictions this week to allow up to three households to socialize outdoors, an expansion of rules aimed at people tempted to have even larger gatherings around Halloween, Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
Ghaly said Tuesday this doesn't mean the state is endorsing or encouraging small gatherings — he'd rather see no gatherings — but these are best practices for individuals who plan to gather anyways during the holiday season.
Three households can gather so long as they wear masks and follow other safety precautions designed to stem the spread of the virus, under the new guidelines from the California Department of Public Health.
There's no limit on the number of people within any three households, though state officials say smaller is better. State health officials previously discouraged gatherings outside of a single household.
Annual Halloween events across Southern California such as Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, Disneyland’s Oogie Boogie Bash and the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor have all been canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.
While much of the country and European nations are seeing a resurgence, coronavirus indicators in California are near their record lows. Hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early April and those in intensive care at their second-lowest level since officials began keeping track in late March. The rate of positive tests has been hovering at 2.6% for two weeks.
California has recorded about 850,00 positive tests and has seen more than 16,500 deaths. The number of weekly cases has flattened after a precipitous drop from peak levels during the summer. Average daily deaths have been falling and were at 60 for the most recent seven days.
Newsom said officials want to keep the numbers low.
“We are entering into the holidays, but also we’re entering into part of the year where things cool down and people are more likely to congregate back indoors in settings that put their physical proximity and likelihood of transmission and transmitting disease at higher risk,” he said.
Contributing: Associated Press