CALIFORNIA — The Golden State released official recommendations on how families should celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos Tuesday. Trick-or-treating was "strongly discouraged" in California due to the widespread threat of COVID-19.
The new guidelines released by the state Tuesday presents suggestions on how to enjoy some traditions without gathering with others or mixing households.
Instead of trick-or-treating, public health officials are advising families to move Halloween activities online or host spooky celebrations that only include members of the same household, nixing the door to door exposure that candy collecting could present.
"COVID-19 continues to pose an important risk, as we say time and time again, so some of the traditional Halloween celebrations such as parties, door-to-door trick-or-treating, we know pose a high risk of spreading COVID, and are therefore strongly discouraged," Ghaly said Tuesday in an afternoon a news conference. "We suggest families, given this, should plan now on safer alternatives."
Although California's COVID-19 positivity rate, 2.6 percent, is significantly lower than it was in the summer or even last month, but officials are still urging residents to keep up the momentum as cases plateau in the state.
Will families be penalized or in subject to enforcement if they choose to trick-or-treat anyway? Ghaly said "absolutely not," according to the Los Angeles Times.
But the Halloween tradition, he said, could easily spread virus.
"The whole act of going door to door in groups, ringing doorbells, digging into buckets of delicious candy create a risk of spreading COVID-19," Ghaly said. "The fact that positive cases are hard to discover and probably really challenging to contract-trace also pose challenges that we feel like are too great."
Trick-or-treating without social distancing could push many households to mix and congregate on doorsteps, public health officials warn in the guidelines.
"That type of mixing is not currently permitted in California. Additionally, if there is a positive case discovered, it is very challenging to do appropriate contact tracing to identify all those who have been potentially exposed," the document reads.
The newly published guidelines provide a list of "safer" alternatives for Halloween, including creating a haunted house, attending car-based outings, having a scary movie night and preparing a candy scavenger hunt in the backyard.
“There are certainly many, many new ways to celebrate virtually that people are already sharing online,” Ghaly said, adding that his own family was considering virtual options to celebrate.
For those celebrating Día de los Muertos, the state recommends spending time with people in the same household or to celebrate virtually. The recommendations for celebrating Día de los Muertos safely include building an alter in a front window so others can view from the street, creating a virtual alter and visiting a cemetery with your household.
The state's newly released health guidance for Halloween largely mirrors recommendations issued last month by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. LA's recommendations included a ban on parties or large gatherings. The county also initially banned trick-or-treating, but quickly backed down, knocking it back to a recommendation.
While reiterating that large gatherings were still prohibited banned, Ghaly noted that the state recently loosened its restrictions on get-togethers, but said such events should be limited to no more than three households.