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Editorial: Halloween in COVID times is a big boohoo

A sign under a ghost decoration says "COVID-19 tricked us. No treats this year. Boo-hoo! See you in 2021"
A home in Brentwood has a Halloween decoration a very 2020 message.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

My two young kids were determined to trick-or-treat this year. The COVID-19 pandemic had already crushed the year’s rituals and milestones. There were no Easter egg hunts, no end-of-school celebrations and no summer camp. My older son’s elementary school promotion ceremony was canceled, and the first day of school on Zoom was just depressing.

But Halloween, we thought, could be saved. Kids could socially distance as they marched the streets in search of candy. They could take turns knocking on doors, rather than crowding the doorstep, and they could sanitize their hands between houses. Masks and gloves go perfectly well with costumes, right?

Their hopes were dashed when the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health banned trick-or-treating. County officials later relented in the face of furious blowback, saying that kids would technically be allowed to ask for candy door to door, but trick-or-treating was still highly discouraged.

The annual school costume parade is also a bust. Our younger son’s elementary school is having a drive-by version, with costumed kids buckled into their car seats and warned to STAY IN THE VEHICLE AT ALL TIMES!!! The middle school option isn’t much more appealing. There’s a Zoom costume dance party, to which my older son responded: “I’m supposed to dance by myself in front of a computer? No.”

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We pondered our options for a safe trick-or-treating experience. Could we run a clothesline across the frontyard with fun-size bags of M&M’s clipped to it? Could we lay out little bags of candy on a large folding table and observe the pickup from a safe distance (because handing out candy is almost as much fun as getting it)?

But as I talked to other parents and worried about another wave of coronavirus cases, it became clear that we would have to skip trick or treating this year. Living in COVID times has meant a daily assessment of whether once-normal activities can be made safe enough. There’s a balancing of risk and reward. As much as we love the traditional Halloween activities, the risk of turning Halloween into a super-spreader event isn’t worth it. My kids would much rather have the coronavirus case rate come down enough that our community, and their schools, can safely reopen.

We’ll still go out on Halloween evening. The kids will parade around the neighborhood in their costumes and masks. And happily, there’s more to enjoy out there this year.

Some neighbors have gone above and beyond in decorating their houses, perhaps because they’re spending so much time at home. People who usually just put out pumpkins have now strung up webs of rope with giant fuzzy spiders. Projectors flash witches and werewolves onto sides of houses. Inflatable Jack Skellingtons sway in the evening breeze, and there are so many bony hands rising from front-lawn cemeteries.

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It’s beautiful. And it’s one change wrought by COVID that should live on after we’re no longer haunted by the coronavirus.


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