This is our new weekly pandemic feature: Is It Safe, where we ask you what you’re comfortable with in the age of COVID-19, and what you aren’t. Read our primer to understand the concept. And email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. This week: Halloween.
We are just more than a week away from a Halloween unlike any other. While adults experience Halloween parties as a way to wear tight clothes while drinking with strangers — something one would hope is being avoided this year — this is, at its core, a holiday for children. As the parent of a third grader and a first grader, I’ve been hearing about how desperately they’re looking forward to Halloween since last Halloween. People give you candy, you get to pretend you’re somebody else for a night, you get to stay up late … it’s the perfect kid holiday.
But COVID is here, and many cities and municipalities have canceled Halloween this year. The holiday does not necessarily require an official endorsement, of course, but it’s a question every family is asking right now: Should we do Halloween this year? In this week’s installment of Is It Safe? I want to look at it from a personal standpoint. What are the arguments for going? What are the arguments against it? Last week, I asked you for your thoughts on the matter. Having read through all of them, these are the best arguments for each side.
- It’s outside, and it’s very easy to keep distance from everyone involved. By all accounts, outdoor activities are far safer at reducing virus transmission than indoor activities, and there isn’t much more “outdoor” than trick-or-treating: By definition, you never go inside. It is not difficult for a family to go up to a front door, take some candy left outside by a neighbor, wave to them from the porch or front steps and then go onto the next house. “This isn’t difficult,” one respondent said. “This is about a thousand times safer than eating inside at a restaurant, and you see that on every street corner every day of the year.” This was a common refrain: “This is a socially distanced activity by design,” one said. “People are being ridiculous.”
- It’s a way to connect with your community in a way we haven’t been able to for months. Maybe you’ve had a friend over for socially distanced drinks on the porch, or maybe you’ve eaten outside at a restaurant. But it has been many, many month since our communities have been able to be united, and bonded, in the way that Halloween does. Is it any wonder that we all feel isolated and cut off from the people around us? We’re all trapped inside! This is a way to safely share time with your friends and neighbors after many months away from them, and thus the bonds tie our communities together.
- Haven’t kids suffered enough? More and more schools are opening for in-person learning, but most kids have been away from their friends, and really, the world, for more than seven months now. It’s not healthy for them, it’s not healthy for their parents, it’s not healthy for anyone. This is their favorite day of the year, and it’s one you can do safely and distanced. How can we take this from them too? “I’ve asked my kids to make so many sacrifices, and now I’m taking Halloween away from them too?” one reader wrote. “I won’t be that cruel.”
- It’s a gathering. Gatherings are inherently dangerous. Many cities and states have rules against any gathering of 50 or more people, and that is exactly what Halloween is: A gathering. People will come from all over, converge, and then leave, taking with them whatever they picked up along the way. The virus is running rampant across the country right now, and just because you don’t want it to be at your Halloween doesn’t mean it isn’t. There is very little chance that someone, someone, in the gathering of people at your Halloween doesn’t have COVID-19. If we’re ever going to get out of this, we have to stop these very activities to slow the spread. “I love Halloween too,” one parent said. “But if we don’t get this under control, we might miss next Halloween. Now is the exactly the time to avoid gatherings like this.”
- Kids can’t be trusted to obey the rules. Sure, technically, Halloween can be a socially distanced, safe holiday. But are kids really going to socially distance? Do you think kids are doing to be wiping down their candy before they start eating it? They’re kids! The whole holiday is about impulsiveness. Sure, they should be cautious, but there is no way they are going to be. And if you are not cautious, you are going to spread this virus. Many parents noted just how inherently messy Halloween is. And this is not a great year for mess.
- Is this really the exact time you want to be outside in the dark? Halloween is exactly four days before Election Day, and, as you might have noticed, people are a little dialed up right now. People are not at their best at this particular moment. There haven’t been shelter-in-place orders for several months now. But this is maybe not the worst time to shelter in place? It’s dark, there are people everywhere and the world is falling apart. Maybe staying inside after dark for the next week or so after Halloween isn’t the worse idea. “I wouldn’t be out late on a normal Wednesday until this is over, let alone Halloween,” one respondent said. “No thanks.”
Ultimately, I trust my children, and my wife’s and my stewardship of them, to be smart enough to pick the right houses and make the right choices. My kids have been through so much: I’m gonna let them be Batman and Nick Chubb for the night. But yeah: We’re going to be careful. And it certainly won’t be a “normal” Halloween.
But is it safe? I don’t know the answer. It’s an excellent question. Which is why, after all, I am asking.
And now we give you next week’s question: Should you send your young children (ages K-6) back to school, if they have the option, or should you have them stay virtual? Email me at email@example.com your thoughts and answers to the question of the week. You can also leave your responses in the Responses. The simple question: Would you send your elementary-school-aged children back to school now if you have that option? And why, or why not?
I’ll cull the best answers and they’ll serve as the backbone of next Friday’s piece. So tell me what’s on your mind. I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I need yours.
Will Leitch will be writing multiple pieces a week for Medium. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel “How Lucky,” released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.