Will trick-or-treating go the way of Fourth of July fireworks and Easter egg hunts this year?
After first announcing a ban on the popular Halloween activity Tuesday, Los Angeles County public health officials revised their stance on Wednesday and strongly discouraged it due to the coronavirus.
Kern County public health officials have made no announcement about Halloween yet and the county's public health director Matt Constantine said he's waiting to hear from the state on the issue.
"Unfortunately it’s another social event that we look forward to that will present some increased risk," Constantine said.
It's not just going door-to-door for candy that's potentially an issue. Popular events like haunted houses, costume parties and "trunk or treating" involve people mingling with others in close proximity, which is the main way the virus spreads. And it's supposed to happen at a time when the county is desperately trying to decrease the local spreads in order to reopen more businesses and activities.
Some local events have already been canceled.
"See you in 2021," says the webpage for the Kern County Museum's annual Safe Halloween event, attended by hundreds of kids and their parents over two days each year.
The popular Scare Valley haunted house and Halloweenville on the museum grounds is also off this year, said organizer Mike Ross.
"We just don't see it being the event our customers have come to know and love," Ross said. "We're going to put it on the shelf for this year and come back better than ever next year."
Ross said he and his collaborators talked about modifying the event and instead doing a haunted hayride but too many uncertainties arose. Will anyone come? How much extra money will that require?
In the end, they didn't want to put on a "watered-down event," he said.
"It was not an easy decision, trust me," Ross said.
Meanwhile, as some children start dreaming up this year's costume, their parents may be fretting over whether to let them go trick or treating.
"I’ve had a lot of people mention they’re not having their kids trick or treat," said Jennifer Keller, owner of Fantasy Frocks, a costume rental company and store in downtown Bakersfield. Instead, customers say they're planning to celebrate at home or with a limited number of family or friends, Keller said.
The costume shop's business has already been hammered by the complete shut down of all local or high school theater productions, Keller said. It's too early to tell how impacted Halloween business will be because most people usually wait until the week before halloween to get their costumes, Keller said.
While trick-or-treating takes place outside, officials in Los Angeles said it is impossible to social distance on front porches and in doorways in issuing its recommendations. Instead, they have suggested online parties, car parades and Halloween movie nights at drive-in theaters.
But others think a little creativity and adaptation could solve the safety issues presented by trick-or-treating. One suggestion is to have one person, preferably an adult wearing gloves, hand out candy and don't allow children to put their hands in the candy bowl. Or ditch the candy bowl altogether and set out treats spaced apart or in individual bags on a front porch with a sign that says "take one," suggests a Washington Post column by Emily Oster, author of parenting books. Then sit back and watch from a safe distance. Another idea from Good Housekeeping magazine is to move away from the door and pass out candy on the front lawn, to keep the activity in an open space.