No way to sugarcoat it: Spooky spirits not the only Halloween scare this year

COVID-19 pandemic guidelines might leave some Halloween celebrants howling. –Photo by Billy Hardiman

By Alexia Stanbridge

The COVID-19 pandemic has added an entirely new and, dare we say, scary dimension to Halloween festivities in Tempe.

With fears of the Coronavirus spreading, it’s a scaled-back version of ghosts, goblins and goodies this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on how to celebrate Halloween safely and Tempe Vice Mayor Randy Keating encourages members of the community to follow them while creating fun, low-risk activities to keep the spooky spirit alive.

“We encourage Tempeans to act responsibly, follow CDC guidelines, look at what is being recommended, and make a decision that’s best for them or their family,” Keating said.

From pumpkin snowmen and perky scarecrows to spooky graveyards and ghoulish ghosts, residents of Tempe and West Chandler scared up Halloween decorations to deck the halls with wows of jolly and a little creepy-crawly. — Photos by Billy Hardiman

According to the CDC website, many traditional Halloween activities can be high risk for spreading the virus, and people are urged to look into alternative ways to participate in Halloween. Outdoor activities tend to be lower-risk activities, according to the website.

CDC recommendations categorize Halloween activities by risk level. Traditional trick-or-treating is considered a higher risk and should be avoided, the CDC declares. Tempe police will not be patrolling the streets enforcing modest trick or treating behavior, but the city will be enforcing the CDC 50 percent occupancy guideline for bars and restaurants, Keating said.

Because of the pandemic, Tempe will not be hosting its annual Halloween family carnival. The city is encouraging people to stay home by offering future credit to Tempe parks and recreation activities for anyone who rents a movie at home and turns in the receipt to the city, Keating said.

“I get it,” he said. “Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I’m bummed. I’m just as bummed as anyone else that this is happening.”

So what’s the best strategy as Halloween approaches?

“While they are not illegal, if it were me, I would refrain from doing any high-risk activity, whether it’s a haunted house, trick-or-treating, or an indoor Halloween party,” Keating said.

Expect a “more subdued Halloween,” he added.

“There will be some Halloween parties, clearly not as many as you would see in a normal year,” Keating said.

The pandemic will only ease if expert advice and CDC recommendations are followed, according to Keating.

Gwen Gustafson, an owner of Arizona Fun Services in Tempe, which sells party supplies, costumes and accessories, has seen about a 54 percent decrease in sales due to COVID-19.

“The customers we have had do want to celebrate and do it safely,” Gustafson said. “I believe it can be done. All of us have lost so much this year and this is one holiday I believe can be done safely with masks and social distancing.”

At the Broadway Road Spirit Halloween store in Tempe, Marlaina Rodriguez said there also has been a decrease in business this season.

“The CDC says we shouldn’t have Halloween. The CDC says we shouldn’t be giving out candy, but we’re still here, pushing along, hoping that everyone is going to be out trick-or-treating and that kids are still going to be able to have the fun that we had when we were little kids,” Rodriguez said.

There are many alternative activities to celebrate Halloween, like decorating your house, doing a virtual costume contest, and watching a scary movie at home, Keating added.

Celebrate by setting up a table with candy on it in your driveway and monitoring it from 6 feet away or actually handing out candy door to door,” Gustafson said.

Rodriguez added, “Regardless of what the CDC says, I think that we should still have Halloween, and not just because I work here, but because I remember having a good time when I was a kid.”

Alexia Stanbridge is a journalism student at Mesa Community College.

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