MONTEREY COUNTY — With Halloween just weeks away, Monterey County Health Department has issued guidance on how to celebrate safely with regards to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Normal Halloween traditions, such as trick-or-treating, costume parties and showing off decorations, are all under different considerations this year.
Covid-19 passes from person to person through close contact, and the safe distances of at least 6 feet apart are difficult to maintain while on a porch or at a doorstep, especially in more popular and higher-traffic neighborhoods. The risk is higher at parties with people outside one’s household or small social group.
Even with a costume mask, the county said people tend to relax physical distancing and remove face coverings while at gatherings.
“We still have Covid-19 transmission in our communities and the virus is still spread through droplets that we exhale when we breathe or cough or talk,” said Dr. Edward Moreno, the county’s health officer. “There’s still possibility of people getting exposed by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. We recognize that some of the traditional Halloween activities can increase a person’s or a family’s risk for exposure and spread of Covid-19.”
Moreno said the county worked with other county health departments as well as the state to put together guidelines for Halloween celebrations.
“Gatherings are generally not allowed in California, there’s state guidance,” Moreno said. “Halloween gatherings and parties where you’re bringing in people who aren’t part of your household are still not permitted.”
Monterey County allows different households to mix together in small social circles of no more than 12 total people, and those groups are asked to remain stable and not mix with other social circles. Moreno said parties within such social circles could work.
Large parties, festivals and venues with live entertainment, however, are not permitted in the county and wouldn’t normally be even without Halloween due to the ongoing pandemic.
As for trick-or-treating, Moreno said it isn’t banned, but he didn’t recommend it.
“It’s hard to keep social distancing between households on porches and walkways to and from the porches and sometimes even on the sidewalks,” he said. “We’re not recommending it, but we’re not saying it’s not permitted.”
Moreno said the county wants people to think about the holiday risks and seek out alternatives like virtual costume gatherings or contests with distant judges, such as house-decorating contests. He urged families to get creative this year.
Looking back to drive-through graduations, Moreno said drive-by or drive-through events could work for Halloween.
“Something that’s related to trick-or-treating door to door is trunk-or-treating, or tailgate treating, and those are individuals that decorate their pickup truck or SUV for example and then hand out candies,” he said. “We’re still not recommending that families participate in that this year as well.”
Candy is a large part of Halloween festivities, and Moreno had advice on how to give away treats safely.
“If you’re going to give out candy, it should be wrapped in the original manufacturer’s wrapper and hand sanitizers are very important,” Moreno said. “There should be no close contact or touching during these events.”
In addition to individual safety, businesses could possibly get in on festivities as an alternative to trick-or-treating and parties.
“We still have outdoor dining in Monterey County, so restaurants may want to decorate their outdoor seating areas,” Moreno said. “There might be opportunities for Halloween-themed outdoor dining this year.”
Above all, Moreno reminded that the most important things to do to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to wear face coverings, wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer and sanitize high-touch surfaces.
Monterey County Health Department announced Sept. 28 that the county passed 10,000 cumulative cases of Covid-19. An additional 55 cases were added Sept. 27, bringing the infection total to 10,008 cases.
As of Oct. 1, the total number of cases had increased to 10,181.
The county has reported 74 deaths and 604 cumulative hospitalizations since the outbreak began in March. Those numbers are being tracked as part of what will allow the state to reopen counties with eased restrictions.
“We’re trying to keep our case rates down, within the state’s blueprint tiered framework, so we as a community can move to tiers with fewer restrictions,” Moreno said. “We really don’t want to see increased case rates following Halloween.”