Post #851: New York Times article offers some perspective on safe Halloween

Posted on October 6, 2020






An article in yesterday’s New York times provides some national perspective on this year’s Halloween.  (Can Halloween Be Saved? Yes, Experts Say. Here’s How, by Aimee Ortiz.)

Briefly, I found it interesting for a few reasons.

First, it means that I’m not the only one pondering this, looking at the CDC guidelines, and trying to figure out how this might work locally.  (Post #832, Post #831).

Second, the article, along with comments, showed that we are lucky to be able to do safe door-to-door trick-or-treating.  Out here in the single-family-home suburbs, we’re in the sweet spot for population density.  In some areas, trick-or-treating is a mob scene that could not plausibly be kept safe with social distancing.  In remote rural areas, low housing density means that there is no door-to-door trick-or-treating, and the entire community celebration hinges on big parties (that are now unsafe).

Apparently, population density is also they key to having any kind of Halloween parade.  The article lists several cities where parades were cancelled outright, even the sort of “rolling parade” or “wave parade” that the Town of Vienna will have.  In areas of high population density, you just can’t have any sort of parade without crowding and COVID-19 transmission risk.  But her?  Pfft.  Stand at your front door and wave as they go by.

My point being that many areas will be deprived of having anything like a “normal” trick-or-treating.  But that doesn’t have to happen here.  We have options where others don’t.

Third, the final section was about “The importance of normalcy in abnormal times”.  I thought that pretty much hit the nail on the head.  And the physician who had been interviewed for the story was quoted as planning to do what seemed to me to be a more-or-less zero-risk activity:

A parent with two children herself, Dr. Ghosh said her family was planning to wear gloves and costumes (which are crucial to the holiday experience), and were going to homes “that I know the owners of, where they will be placing candy outside.”

Finally, it’s clear that the smart money is on leaving bags of candy out for the trick-or-treaters to take.  Turns out, per this article, the real risk is to the adults, not the kids.  Adults with significant pre-existing conditions don’t want to have anything to do with a parade of kids coming to their front door.  And that risk is easily avoided by placing bags of candy out for the kids to grab.

One nice twist is that the NY Times article suggested laying out your own “social distancing” lines, as you might see at the supermarket checkout.   I thought that was a nice touch if you anticipate a crowd, but that has never happened in my neighborhood.  We get a few trick-or-treaters, widely spaced, over the course of the night.

I know not what course others may take.  But I’m putting out goodie bags on my front porch.  With instructions to shout trick-or-treat as you pick up a bag.  It’s a little distant, compared to giving out the candy in person.  But it beats having no trick-or-treat.

(As a weird aside, if you think about it, sealed goodie bags add sort of a birthday or Christmas-y note to the holiday.  The kids have to tear off the outer wrapper, and the candy inside is a surprise.  Finding a pack of Good-n-Plenty inside is the Halloween equivalent of getting socks for your birthday.  So, who knows, maybe bags will become the standard from now on.)

It would be nice of some organization in a position of authority would recommend that approach.  Or something preferred, if not that.  And, as importantly, discourage the handing out of candy face-to-face.  This is a public health measure, and surely falls within the purview of local government or civic organizations.

Finally, we all know the pandemic shortage drill by now:  Once everybody makes their mind up to leave out goodie bags for the kids … those goodie bags will be all sold out by the time you go to buy some.  So I’m just putting down the marker that, as of today, you can have your pick of cheap decorative Halloween goodie bags on 

As we get closer to Halloween, if everybody eventually converges on this solution, I would expect those to disappear. In fact, that will be my marker for whether or not communities are converting on this solution.  If a lot of them do, then it’s a given that demand for those will outstrip supply, and they’ll all be back-ordered on Amazon.

If  that happens, I’ll use brown paper lunch bags.  Or maybe some decorative paper cups.  I don’t think the kids will mind.