Ventura County Public Health tightens restrictions on Halloween celebrations in new guidance

Bags+of+Halloween+candy+line+the+shelfs+in+Oak+Park%2C+CA+on+Wednesday%2C+Sept.+16.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Bags of Halloween candy line the shelfs in Oak Park, CA on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Dominic D'Amico

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Ventura County Public Health issued updated guidance for celebrating Halloween under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The information from Ventura County Public Health reiterates that gatherings are not allowed under current California State Health Order and provides advice on how to safely celebrate this Halloween.

Directly addressing many prominent Halloween revelries, Ventura County Public Health made clear that carnivals, festivals, haunted houses and Halloween parties are not allowed.

Perhaps most disheartening for Halloween revelers, the guidance goes on to strongly discourage door-to-door trick-or-treating.

At first, door-to-door trick-or-treating was not to be permitted at all, according to the initial Sept. 14 press release and Ventura County Public Health Medical Director and Health Officer Robert Levin.

Then, at a Sept. 15 Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting, Dr. Levin stated “…door to door trick or treating is not allowed, and it’s not allowed just because it can’t be done in a manner that is ensured to be safe…”

However, the updated information sheet re-categorized the time-honored tradition from not permitted to not-recommended.

In its updated guidance, Ventura County Public Health reasoned people shouldn’t trick-or-treat because the public health practices necessary to contain COVID-19 don’t mesh well with the beloved tradition.

Ventura County Public Health counseled against the Halloween pastime, “…because it can be very difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches and at front doors, ensure that everyone answering or coming to the door is appropriately masked to prevent disease spread, and because sharing food is risky.”

Inversely, Ventura County Public Health then went on to outline some acceptable alternatives to this year’s forbidden Halloween celebrations. Online parties or contests are okay, so are home and yard decorations. Halloween films at drive-in theaters, outdoor art installations and Halloween-themed restaurants are all fine as well, so long as they adhere to relevant public health protocols and guidance.

Finally, Ventura County Public Health ended with basic, general tips for staying safe from COVID-19, including wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and frequently washing one’s hands.

With COVID-19 tamping down on holiday celebrations for months now, Halloween is only the latest casualty. Ventura County Public Information Officer Ashley Bautista remarked that Ventura County’s COVID-19 case count is looking better, but reinforced that it’s too early to predict for the next round of holidays.

Bautista stated, “Our numbers are looking better. We must continue to work together to keep the numbers down so we can move forward on the State’s tiered system. It’s too soon to say what other holidays will look like but COVID certainly makes it different.”