With COVID-19 surging, Dallas city and county officials are emphasizing that people need to skip the usual Halloween routine this year.
Namely, no trick-or-treating.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson co-hosted a press conference on October 28 to strongly discourage the practice.
Jenkins, who dressed in a heavy metal-style costume with long black wig for the occasion, said, "Turn the porch light off, don't give out candy, and parents should find something else fun for their kids to do."
Local officials are not allowed to do an outright ban due to restrictions from Gov. Greg Abbott.
"The governor has taken powers normally allowed to mayors and county judges working with health officials, so we can only do a few things," Jenkins said.
"But I think most families are not interested so much in knowing what is legal but interested in knowing what is safe," he said. "And there's no dispute. President Trump, the CDC, public health officials, and now the mayor and I are here, trying to push home that message. If you want to do what is safe, you will turn the light off and not do trick-or-treating this year."
The holiday comes at a time when Dallas County Health and Human Services has raised the COVID-19 risk level from orange (extreme caution) to red (stay home, stay safe), based on the increased numbers of new coronavirus cases, positive cases as a percentage of all tested, and hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19. They're all up, up, and up.
The CDC and Dallas County, the city of Dallas' contracted health authority, have determined that traditional Halloween activities may be high-risk for spreading COVID-19, particularly during colder weather.
"As it gets cold and people go inside, the incidence increases," Jenkins said.
He also pointed out the fallacy of assuming that kids are less vulnerable.
"Children over the age of 10 will get COVID-19 with the same frequency as adults," he said. "Younger children get it a little less. But we do have instances in Dallas County like the young lady at a high school who lost her life."
Dallas County is discouraging not only door-to-door trick-or-treating, but also "Trunk or Treat" events, to allow physical distance, avoid crowds, and prevent cross-contamination of wrapped candies.
"What you're trying to avoid are dozens of hands going into the same bucket, and enticing kids to get together in groups," he said. "And then encounter other groups, all breathing heavily, and not wearing surgical masks."
They offer this list of safer, alternative ways that pose a lower risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19:
- Online parties/Costume contests
- Car parades such as Candy Caravan at Dallas Heritage Village
- Halloween movie nights
- Halloween-themed meals
- At-home candy scavenger hunt