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City officials prepare for a high-stakes Halloween weekend

The city of Athens is making preparations for Halloween weekend and has already canceled some events as COVID-19 continues. 

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said multiple events that would normally take place this year have already been canceled. He said a subgroup of the Chamber of Commerce, the Athens Uptown Business Association, has already canceled a traditional event where they give out candy to costumed people. 

The Honey for Heart Parade and the annual Halloween block party have also been canceled. The dates and times for residential trick or treating are still going to be discussed by Athens City Council.

The city’s main concern is Halloween weekend being what is known as a “super spreader” event. 

“There's certainly safety concerns in terms of having a mass gathering. We’re still under the governor's order to where gatherings of 10 or greater are not permissible and that was one of many reasons why we decided not to have the Halloween block party this year,” Patterson said.  

The Ohio University Police Department has also expressed concern over the effects of Halloween weekend. 

“Our chief concern—as always— is the health and safety of our community, which this year means mitigating the potential for a ‘super spreader’ event in terms of COVID-19,” OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said in an email.

“Super spreader” events are those in which multiple cases of COVID-19 emerge from one event or person. There have been multiple cases of these since the pandemic began, such as the Fourth of July weekend for Athens County

With Halloween, there are multiple aspects that could facilitate the transmission of the virus. Patterson said he and his family will not be participating this year due to safety concerns. 

“The Ohio Department of Health has come out with guidelines for neighborhood trick or treating, and it basically speaks to not having large gatherings at houses, and if people are going to be out going door-to-door trick or treating, that they social distance, that they wear mask or face covering along with their costume,” Patterson said. 

Another front for the city of Athens to battle is parties. 

Parties of all kinds have been notorious for transmitting COVID-19. With the popularity of Halloween parties at Ohio University, officials are gearing up for a high-stakes season.

OUPD said it will be providing significant support and resources, and its usual measures will be in place. While Patterson likes to believe students have good judgement, the police will be responding to any reports of house parties.

“The University continues to encourage students, faculty, and staff to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing if gathering with individuals from outside their household, in compliance with Ohio University Interim Policy 44.102,” Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson said in an email. 

Leatherwood also said those caught breaking the rules would be subject to disciplinary measures such as suspension from in-person classes or a university suspension, via the Student Code of Conduct. 

Patterson suggested holiday revelers get creative when making alternative Halloween plans. He suggested using large PVC pipes to slide candy into buckets as a way to ensure social distancing. Other ideas could include simply staying in, watching a movie and carving pumpkins. 

“I think we really believe that a lot is going to be dictated by what happens between now and Halloween,” Patterson said.


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