A day after issuing guidelines that restricted trick-or-treating and other Halloween traditions because of the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles County health officials walked back some of the rules on Wednesday.
The county Department of Health initially said Tuesday that trick-or-treating, haunted houses and parades would be banned because those activities make it difficult to maintain social distancing.
The updated guidelines stop short of prohibiting kids from going door to door to collect candy. The rules were “slightly revised” and now officials are “recommending that trick-or-treating not happen this year,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during a public briefing on the virus.
So-called “trunk-or-treating” events where kids walk from car to car in a parking lot are also not recommended.
But car parades are OK, as are drive-through haunted houses and Halloween movie nights at drive-in theaters that meet health and safety standards. Parades, carnivals, indoor haunted houses and concerts are not permitted.
Officials encourage online parties, meals at outdoor restaurants, Halloween-themed art installations at outdoor museums and decorating homes and yards.
Andrea Garcia said not going trick-or-treating is just the latest disappointment her 6-year-old grandson has dealt with this year. Earlier this summer his kindergarten graduation was canceled, so the teachers improvised a drive-by ceremony.
“I told him: Halloween is not canceled. We’re just going to do it differently,” Garcia said.
She’s planning a virtual party with extended family members in costumes, a Halloween-themed backyard scavenger hunt and scary story time. And there will still be plenty of candy.
“We’ve had to adapt this year. But it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun,” she said.
Health officials didn’t say what kind of enforcement measures would be in place.
Not letting kids trick-or-treat is “an overreaction,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at University of California, Los Angeles.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it’s disappointing that we continue to make policy recommendations that are not based on the evidence,” Klausner said Wednesday.
He said the data show that children are at very low risk of transmitting the virus to adults.
“There’s very little evidence showing that controlling infection in children has any benefit to controlling epidemic overall,” Klausner said.
Annual Halloween events such as Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, Disneyland’s Oogie Boogie Bash and the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor were all canceled weeks ago because of COVID-19 concerns.
Los Angeles County remains in the state’s highest tier for virus danger, which is purple, meaning many nonessential businesses are closed, there’s no indoor dining and schools can’t return to in-person teaching unless they obtain a waiver to do so.
A group representing the candy industry chided LA County for not including “a more creative and safe approach to trick-or-treating” in its guidelines.
“Across the country, this Halloween will look a little different for many people. Whether this means trick-or-treating, more candy bowl moments at home with family and close friends, or just more time celebrating the season throughout the month of October, one thing is for sure – Halloween is happening,” the National Confectioners Association said in a statement.