Halloween approaches

Halloween decorations like these at the corner of Third and Walnut streets, J.E. Johntz Home, are springing up in Abilene. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still haunting the U.S., just what that holiday might look like in Abilene on Oct. 31 is questionable.

“The city doesn’t have the ability to cancel Halloween,” Commissioner Trevor Witt said at a study session on Monday.

The city commissioners agreed that the residents of Abilene need to follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the city staff is recommending not to close down Third Street from Walnut to Popular streets as has been done in recent years.

In the past close to 1,000 trick-or-treaters have visited that area between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Halloween.

“There was the potential of an accident to happen when kids and their families were crossing the street,” Foltz said of past years. “We’ve had a lot of people calling to see if the city was going to stop Halloween in Abilene, Kansas.”

“I feel we should just follow the CDC on this one,” said Commissioner Dee Marshall.

“The CDC talks about high risk with COVID-19 and low risk activities that can be done in a community,” Foltz said.

Witt said he lives in the high traffic Halloween area of town and is aware of the number of trick-or-treaters.

“The approach we need to take on this is to not close Third Street down with the anticipation that there will be more limited activity in trick-or-treating. We just need to have the message out to extend courtesy to people who are taking precautions. Once this gets figured out will just make the next year even better.”

Mayor Chris Ostermann and Commissioner Tim Shafer agreed to not close Third Street.

“Just make it limited. Turn off lights if you don’t want anyone coming,” Ostermann said.

Foltz said it was a staff decision to close Third Street in the past, thus no vote will be taken next Monday.

The CDC guidelines suggest avoiding high risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus of COVID-19. Those include:

• Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door

• Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots

• Attending crowded costume parties held indoors

• Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming

• Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household

• Using alcohol or drugs which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors

• Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

According to the CDC guidelines, many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.


Lower risk 


These lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:

• Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them

• Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends

• Decorating your house, apartment, or living space

• Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance

• Having a virtual Halloween costume contest

• Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with

• Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house


Moderate risk


• Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)

◦ If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.

• Having a small group outdoor open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart

• Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart

◦ A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.

◦ Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

• Going to an open-air one-way walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart

◦ If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.

• Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing

• Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart

◦ If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.

◦ Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

 Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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