As fall colors change and Halloween weekend fast approaches, COVID-19 remains as prevalent as ever in the Corvallis community, leaving residents unsure about how to celebrate and city officials stressing that guidelines for COVID-19 should still be followed.
Every year, there are many Halloween traditions that are typically in place, such as dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating or partying with friends, both of which are typically not COVID-19 friendly.
Amongst the Corvallis population, students at Oregon State University are often part of a larger celebration of “Halloweekend,” a series of parties where students feel they have a chance to wind down after midterms by seeing friends and meeting new people.
“These parties are a fun part of the college experience and let us all find our inner kids again by dressing up and having a good time,” said Ben Ho, a third year marketing major at OSU, via email.
But as COVID-19 is still spreading through campus and the greater Corvallis area, parties and other social gatherings with friends and strangers may not be as safe as they were in past years.
Dr. Adam Brady, the infectious disease specialist at Samaritan Health Services, emphasized that avoiding indoor crowds is crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19. According to Brady, events held outside with appropriate social distancing and mask-wearing are comparably low risk.
He emphasized that events taken place indoors with poor ventilation and airflow without taking precautions are likely to be a source of COVID-19 transmission.
“Oftentimes, Halloween parties are inside,” Brady said. “There’s eating and drinking, so mask use is almost impossible. Multiple different groups are coming together, and that is a recipe for spread, for sure.”
Brady also made suggestions on how to participate in Halloween parties as safely as possible.
“If you can, make your parties outside,” he said. “Incorporate a mask into your costume and try to stay at least six feet apart from people at all times, even when you’re eating and drinking.”
Local Corvallis organizations have rearranged their yearly Halloween festivities to accommodate for CDC guidelines. Corvallis Parks and Recreation is hosting the event “Boo Bash in a Bag” for local 11-18 year old youth.
James Mellein, assistant director of Corvallis Parks and Recreation, stated that participants in the event will receive their kits via a drive-thru event through Avery Park. In order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading, the organization has taken several precautions, such as using grabber tools and requiring masks to be worn at all times.
Benton County Public Information Officer Alyssa Rash, also recognizes that people may still continue to host parties despite CDC guidelines, and said that Benton County is trying to educate people about harm reduction for COVID-19. According to Rash, there have been spikes around major holidays even before school was back in session.
For instance, Benton County Health Department reported a spike from 26 cases to 50 cases after the Labor Day weekend.
As such, Rash believes that there is a possibility of a spike in COVID-19 cases after Halloween weekend.
“I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet,” Rash said. “It really is dependent on social behavior.”
Rash also gave recommendations for the OSU community, encouraging community members to continue to be cognizant of CDC guidelines. She added organizations such as fraternities, sororities and others should use their platforms by encouraging members of the community to stay safe.
“They can plan any events they are hosting with COVID-19 precautions in mind and they can even provide supplies to keep people safe,” she said. “That could be providing face coverings, individual food and drinks for people to make sure they’re not sharing plates or cups.”
As with any other year, it is important to be aware of how much you are drinking if you choose to partake in consuming alcohol on Halloween weekend. With COVID-19, Rash suggested that students be even more cognizant of surroundings and alcohol consumption during the festive weekend.
“Drug and alcohol limits and inhibits your decision making,” Rash said. “People who are impaired are likely to be less mindful of physical distance, and they may not be paying very close attention to wearing their face coverings properly or sharing beverages.”
Brady recognizes that Halloween is a fun and party time of the year, and many people enjoy partaking in local festivities.
“But the combination of it being cold outside, people coming inside, cases going up also in the community; it’s a recipe for lots more transmission and it may just postpone us getting back to normal quicker.”