While not wanting residents to contract COVID-19 on Halloween, cities are finding out that canceling the beloved holiday can be tricky.
Last month, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health backpedaled its initial decision to ban trick-or-treating, instead advising against it. Also “not recommended” this year, according to the county, is trunk-or-treating, where children go from car to car to receive treats.
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, the Beverly Hills Health and Safety Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council ban trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treating. City spokesman Keith Sterling confirmed that the City Council would be expected to weigh in at its upcoming meeting on Oct. 13. If the council votes to enact such a ban, Beverly Hills will become one of the most restrictive places to celebrate the holiday in the region.
“The council will ultimately decide what the potential citation would be for a violation of any emergency order specific to Halloween, if one is issued,” Sterling said. “It could be similar to the face-covering violations, with penalties of $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for the third and subsequent.”
Health and Safety Commission Chair Daniel Nazarian said he hoped that residents would comply with the ban and not do anything to encourage trick-or-treating or trunk-or-treating given that every knock on their door translates to possible exposure to infection.
“I would encourage residents to turn their porch lights out this year, and let’s just do a better Halloween next year,” Commissioner Kirk Chang added.
In addition to the three doctors on the Health and Safety Commission, at Tuesday’s meeting, five additional doctors weighed in on the issue, all but one staunchly advocating that the city take measures as stringent as possible to prevent people from participating in festivities that would increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Of the 695 confirmed coronavirus cases in Beverly Hills, 12 people have died.
“Trick-or-treating is not recommended because it can be very difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches and at front doors, ensure that everyone answering or coming to the door is appropriately masked to prevent disease spread, and because sharing food is risky,” said Sienna Spencer-Markles, a public relations consultant working with the L.A. County Department of Public Health. “Trunk-or-treating … is also not recommended, particularly when part of Halloween events, since it is difficult to avoid crowding and sharing food.”
Under the current county order, gatherings and events are still not permitted. As such, Halloween gatherings, events or parties with non-household members are not permitted even if they are conducted outdoors. Carnivals, festivals, live entertainment and haunted house attractions are also not allowed.
In West Hollywood, where the iconic annual Halloween Carnaval, which was launched in 1987, has been cancelled, the city plans hold just one holiday event: a youth Halloween “Trunk or Treat” drive-thru event. West Hollywood Public Information Officer Sheri Lunn said the event, which will take place on Oct. 24 from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Plummer Park north parking lot, complies with county health directives. Touted as a “fun and safe way to trick or treat in your car while maintaining social distancing,” according to the webpage, the event reimagines trunk-or-treating with decorated car trunks, a pumpkin patch, take-home craft activity kits, swag items, a DJ, entertainment, prizes, candy and more.
“We encourage children to come dressed in their favorite costumes and show that Halloween spirit by decorating the exterior of your car,” states the city’s website, which advises people to pre-register for a specific time slot if they wish to attend.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in May 2020 the West Hollywood City Council approved the cancellation of all major special events in the city of West Hollywood through the end of 2020,” Lunn said. “This action followed the city’s declaration of local emergency in March 2020 and postponement or cancellation of non-essential events and meetings.”
Michael Libow, owner of the landmark Witch’s House on Walden Drive, which draws over 4,000 people annually on Oct. 31, urged the city of Beverly Hills to enact restrictions this year.
“We need to be resolute during these strange times and be conscious of the health and well-being of our residents and guests on Halloween. I am highly recommending that the city place heavy restrictions on trick-or-treating this year to avoid the potential spread of the deadly contagion which is COVID-19,” he wrote the commission. “I feel that it would be prudent for Beverly Hills to take the lead on this matter and not fall prey to any outside influences from anywhere across the nation.”
For those looking to safely celebrate at home this year, Mr. Jack O’Lanterns Pumpkin Patch will open once again this weekend on Oct. 3 at 1841 N. Highland Ave. In addition to in-person shopping, new this season will be online ordering and delivery, as well as contactless curbside pick-up amidst the coronavirus pandemic. To further promote safety, all staff and guests will be required to wear masks and there will be sanitization stations throughout the patch. On-site cleaning staff will also sanitize the patches thoroughly.
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