To adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, Palo Alto residents are adjusting their usual activities and celebrations for Halloween this year.
The Santa Clara County of Public Health released a joint statement of the Bay Area Health Officers which said popular activities like trick-or-treating are categorized as high-risk and should be avoided.
The joint statement said Halloween parties, haunted houses and indoor mazes and handing out treats from a vehicle in a parking lot are very high-risk activities.
The statement instead recommends people to engage in low risk activities, such as visiting an outdoor pumpkin patch following all safety regulations and having a virtual costume contest.
Medium-risk activities, the statement said, include one-way trick-or-treating, where individually wrapped bags are lined up for families to grab while practicing social distancing guidelines.
Palo Alto parent Sharon Hoffman said she is disappointed by the regulations, but understands their necessity.
“I think the current chaos at the White House right now is a good reminder not to be foolish about COVID-19,” Hoffman said. “Even so, I do feel comfortable with the moderate risk activities described in the guidelines, so I am guessing we will do some candy gathering with friend’s houses. But, obviously, it won’t be the same.”
Hoffman said it’s most disappointing, though, for her fifth grader in the Palo Alto Unified School District and other kids, who have already had a rough seven months.
“I know they’re especially bummed that it’s finally on a Saturday night, and the older elementary kids, like my son, were definitely looking forward to venturing out on their own for the first time,” Hoffman said. “Fingers crossed for next year.”
During a Halloween Resource Meeting on Oct. 1, Palo Alto City Resource Manager Ed Shikada said residents should stay home and keep celebrations small.
As part of the Palo Alto Community Services Department Jasmine Leblanc has planned alternate activities for residents during for Halloween including a masquerade social media contest and jack-o-lantern stroll.
“We are inviting everyone in town to show off their carved pumpkins by bringing one to a designated location on (the) night before Halloween,” LeBlanc said. “These pumpkins will all be displayed together for community members to walk by and enjoy. It is a stroll by event where you can (see) what your community has come up with.”
LeBlanc has also designed a public art scavenger hunt, where community members can search for pieces of art in murals painted downtown.
During the meeting, Palo Alto Police Sgt. Alexander Afanasiev said people need to think about the rules and regulations in place before planning something that may be against the guidelines.
“We are not issuing any event permits for large-scale events,” Afanasiev said. “These have typically caused large crowds in Palo Alto neighborhoods, like old Palo Alto, which attracts thousands of visitors and spectators. We are also discouraging the public from traveling to other neighborhoods to trick or treat.”
Senior class president Emma Lin said these regulations make sense because they are no different from the rest of the year.
“I’m not particularly disappointed by any of it because I assumed it wasn’t happening,” Lin said.
This year, Lin said she will likely spend her Halloween with friends or working on her college applications.