Virtual costume parties. Socially distanced trunk-or-treating with souped-up cars. Face coverings over Halloween makeup. As the spooky season approaches, Los Angeles County officials released new guidelines that promise an unusual Halloween.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released an update to its Sept. 8 edict to ensure residents plan for a pandemic-conscious Halloween. Their latest missive distinguishes between activities that are not permitted and those that are not recommended.
Halloween gatherings, events, haunted houses and carnivals are not permitted, whether they are outdoor or indoor. Door to door trick-or-treating was originally banned, but officials now are a bit more lenient.
“Trick-or-treating -- we are highly recommending it not happen,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, during a Sept. 9 COVID-19 news conference. “We don’t think it’s an appropriate activity during a pandemic. We’ve always relied on sensible actions taken by the majority of people who live in our community.”
Although Halloween is not canceled, the official guidelines require businesses and organizers of well-known events to rethink this year’s festivities.
Some of the new, pandemic-friendly adjustments include drive-thru haunted houses and immersive experiences. The drive-thru attractions will be found throughout Los Angeles. Central Downtown LA plans to host a Stranger Things drive-thru. The popular Calabasas Night of The Jack will be transformed into a drive-in experience with large pumpkin installations. The Bite L.A. Halloween Food Crawl will showcase a twist on immersive entertainment with food delivered to the car.
Cafe Dulce, located in Little Tokyo, typically takes part in an annual Halloween event called Haunted Little Tokyo. In previous years, it was a month-long series of events including movie screenings, pumpkin carvings, haunted ghost tours and a block party on Second St.
This year, James Choi, founder of Cafe Dulce, moved the event to a more spacious venue. To respect county guidelines, Haunted Little Tokyo will happen at the Nishi Buddhist Temple parking lot, with participants remaining 6 feet apart from one another during a trunk-or-treat event.
“I don’t think trick-or-treating should be canceled but I think proper, good practices should be promoted,” Choi told Annenberg Media.
Since the event is geared towards children, Choi mentioned a do-it-yourself prop to encourage social distancing by safely handing out candy to children through PVC pipes.
In past years, when he went trick-or-treating with his nieces and daughter, Choi said everyone was far from one another on the sidewalk. The few times of close interaction occurred on the walkways to houses.
Choi said that, though children may be at a lower risk of death from COVID-19, they can effectively transmit the virus. "That is a little scary. But, this is all happening outdoors, so I think with proper precautions met, it’s fine,” he said.
Jill Burke, a master’s student of journalism at USC, grew up in New Jersey and remembered when former Gov. Chris Christie postponed Halloween for the entire state following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. She said she does not want to see Halloween go the way of Fourth of July celebrations and children’s birthday parties during the pandemic.
“I think there’s a way to be able to do Halloween in a safe way, with masks and making it socially distanced during this pandemic,” she said. “It is different from the situation in New Jersey back in 2012. It’s not a danger of people walking around with unstable trees and live power lines after a major hurricane.”
Still, both Choi and Burke emphasized that those celebrating Halloween this year should take careful precautions and obey county guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19.