TUESDAY, Sept. 29 — The coronavirus hasn’t totally canceled Halloween in Greater Lansing. Local and state officials are just urging extreme caution— especially for those who insist their kids still can go door-to-door to collect candy from strangers during a pandemic.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a series of safety guidelines as Halloween approaches. Among them: Stay home if you’re sick. Maintain social distance. Wear face masks. Wash hands often. But go ahead and get that Halloween candy.
“The way we celebrate Halloween in Michigan will be different this year,” said Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “However, there are still many ways to celebrate safely.”
Trick-or-treating is still considered a “high-risk” activity — much like going to a bar — and federal health officials have encouraged alternative activities and offered tips for those that still proceed. Still, neither the cities of Lansing or East Lansing have opted for more stringent public guidance.
“I think it’s going to be a community-by-community decision. Things change so rapidly. We could continue this downward trend and be in a very different place, or we could continue to have a spike and have more concerns. It’s hard to see where things might go,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. “I don’t see an order that actually mandates people don’t trick-or-treat.”
Nearly 3,500 confirmed coronavirus cases have been detected in Ingham County. About 1,500 of those spotted since Sept. 1 have been connected to Michigan State University. That recent spike is showing signs of tapering, but Vail cautioned that East Lansing still isn’t out of the woods.
State officials have also tracked nearly 122,000 COVID-19 cases and 6,700 related deaths in Michigan, including more than 4,000 cases and 100 deaths identified in the last week alone.
Officials in Lansing, at least at this point, still have no plans to cancel trick-or-treating but will remain in contact with Vail as the holiday nears. Plans could change if things get worse.
“That said, anyone still planning to trick or treat should wear a mask and those giving out candy should as well,” a city spokesman said. “Other measures aimed at maintaining social distancing could be taken like leaving candy outside homes for children to take. We are also in touch with city leaders in our neighboring communities so that we can act as uniformly as is practicable.”
Lansing is also planning a drive-thru trick-or-treat event at Frances Park 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Halloween.
East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens said the city will continue to follow state guidance.
“The bigger issue I’m thinking about in terms of Halloween in East Lansing is the fact that it’s a Saturday and we have a football game,” Stephens added. “In terms of trick or treating, I think that a statewide or regional expectation will reach more people than trying to do that city by city.”
Vail said the Health Department could eventually issue a recommendation that “strongly discourages” trick-or-treating this year, but she isn’t likely to insist that a prohibition be enforced. Instead, she would rely on city officials to “essentially cancel” Halloween on the local level.
“It’s something we’re going to have to look at, make some sort of decision and put out advice as we move on,” Vail said. “Have we had to cancel trick or treating before? It seems like we have.”
State officials cautioned parents to tell their children that Halloween “may be different than last year” with increased social distancing protocols and required face coverings in public spaces. They also advised kids to avoid groups and travel only in one direction to reduce congestion.
State officials also cautioned kids to only trick-or-treat with members of their households and warned that costume masks are not working substitutes for cloth masks. Homeowners are also advised to use duct tape to mark six-foot lines in front of their homes and driveways and either position a candy table between themselves and trick-or-treaters or use a grab-and-go method.
Teenagers and adults are also urged to consider virtual parties instead of in-person Halloween gatherings. Those parties that continue should still be limited to 10 people or less, social distance should be maintained and cloth masks should be worn while not eating or drinking.