Let’s cut right to the chase: it’s 2020, the Coronavirus Pandemic still has our country in its grasp, and we’d like some free candy to distract us from the rest of this hell years shortcomings. But is that legal? Do we even want to consume sweets from the homes of potential super-spreaders? And if we can’t go trick-or-treating, what options do we have left?
In short, no, you will not be arrested for going trick-or-treating. However, the guidelines don’t end there.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH), “Halloween gatherings, events or parties with non-household members,” and “carnivals, festivals, live entertainment, and haunted house attractions” are outright banned, even if they occur outside. It’s obvious from this statement by the DPH that all public events previously held by the city are off this autumn, but it is still unclear how the city will enforce this policy on private residences.
Though it is unlikely that the Department of Public Health will hunt you down if you’re having a Halloween party (let alone make sure your guests aren’t from other households), we need to take into consideration the health risks involved. It only takes one Covid-carrying guest for your spooky gathering to take a more sinister turn, and there are several safer alternatives to becoming known as the host of Herd Immunity Halloween.
Parties and events aside, the DPH has marked trick-or-treating “not recommended,” noting that “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.” “Trunk-or-treating” (collecting candy from car-to-car instead of door-to-door) is also not recommended under the latest guidelines.
For Eagle Rock specifically, Lucy Aparicio, District Director of Los Angeles City Council District 14, says, “Ultimately the City follows the safety protocols set forth by the State of California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.” (The state has also issued guidelines that allow for more social interaction, but the report reminds its readers that local restrictions are of higher relevance.) Aparicio did not respond to a question about whether the LAPD would be enforcing the DPH’s guidelines.
Though the prospects certainly seem grim for Halloween this year, Senior Lead Officer Lenning Davis of the LAPD does provide some safer alternatives to traditional October 31 celebrations that comply with the safety guidelines. “While traditional Trick-or-Treating may not be recommended this year, Halloween is still on in the neighborhood!” he says. Some of Officer Davis’s suggestions include organizing a Halloween scavenger hunt involving things for your neighbors to spot around town and giving out prizes to the winners; having a socially-distanced pumpkin carving event across front yards; or having a front porch and driveway costume parade. The DPH also recommends virtual parties as the safest option, with a zero-percent likelihood of viral transmission.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a fun activity outside the confines of your quarantined household, there are still a variety of drive-in events open around Los Angeles, such as Fright Farms, Not-So-Spooky Farms, the L.A. Haunted Hayride, a Stranger-Things Themed event, and many more, information for which can be found at https://www.lamag.com.
So, given the restrictions placed on Los Angeles, what are Eagle Rock residents’ plans for October 31, considering that we live in one of the city’s biggest trick-or-treat hotspots? The results of an online survey of Hill Drive area residents, who hand out candy in an area where people are literally bussed in from neighboring cities on Halloween, were staggering: Of the 78 survey participants, 23% will be handing out candy in a socially-distanced fashion, while just one respondent will be distributing as they would in a non-pandemic year, and an overwhelming 76% will not interact with any trick-or-treaters who come to their doors.
“Every year we easily go through almost twenty large size bags of candy,” says James Freeman, a homeowner on one of our town’s busiest streets. Though Mr. Freeman does not feel comfortable allowing his own children to go trick-or-treating, he does expect a small turnout and doesn’t want to turn anyone away empty-handed. “Our plan,” he says, “is to build some kind of “candy chute” [...] that will allow us to keep our distance, yet still “hand out” candy. I know that might seem like we’re encouraging people to trick or treat, but we think those folks have made their own decisions and we just want to do what we can to keep everything as safe as possible.”
However, you choose to celebrate Halloween this year, whether by staying home and watching horror movies, going to a drive-in event, or building a home-made candy-chute, make sure to err on the side of caution and follow the DPH’s guidelines. Keep your mask on at all times, stay six or more feet away from others, and don’t be too cool to wear a costume!