Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Ohio University students and Athens residents alike know that the HallOUween block party is– or, rather, was– a staple of Athens culture. It hasn’t taken place since 2019 due to the pandemic. The city of Athens tacking a second year onto the block party’s coronavirus-induced hiatus is hypocritical, considering that other mass-crowd events were and are still allowed to occur.
The issue at hand is not the reason for canceling the event, and I need to make that clear. COVID-19 is not something to underestimate and, while disappointing, the Delta variant needs to be taken seriously. Hypocrisy comes in when people acknowledge the other highly populated events that continue to be held in and around Athens.
OU football games at Peden Stadium can withstand as many as 24,000 guests, and this excludes people who choose to sit in the grass area in front of the scoreboard. Additionally, vaccination status is not checked upon entry, and there is no requirement for vaccinated individuals to wear a mask. Face coverings are merely recommended for those who are unvaccinated, with the reasoning being it’s an outside event.
Additionally, since its debut in 1974, the HallOUween block party has typically hosted between 10,000 and 30,000 people, including guests brought in from areas outside of Athens. Football games fall into the top 80% of the highest estimated number of people at a HallOUween block party, and there doesn’t seem to be much concern about the lack of masks and potential COVID-19 outbreaks from individuals who do not follow the honors system when it comes to wearing a mask based on their vaccination status. There is also the added factor of OU Athletics encouraging students to “pack Peden” on Twitter.
Another nearby event, the Ohio Pawpaw Festival, was hosted at Lake Snowden in Albany from Sept. 17-19. The last time the festival was hosted, in 2019, it had about 10,000 attendees, according to a previous Post report. This year, guests were asked to wear masks if individuals were unable to to remain 6 feet apart from others at booths, in lines and in tents.
While this number of people is within the lowest estimate of HallOUween attendees and is spread out over three days, it provides a baseline for how this year's block party could have taken place. Rather than having every event crammed into one day, they could have been scheduled throughout the entire weekend and in spread-out locations. It also takes into consideration the amount of money local businesses won’t be receiving now that the event has been canceled. Not only encouraging but providing masks for those who are unvaccinated — or vaccinated and being extra cautious — would provide people a layer of protection from COVID-19 as they go about their day.
According to a previous Post report, even in light of the cancelation of HallOUween, OU is still allowing the Homecoming parade and other related events to take place. This is yet another instance in which large crowds of people will be gathered on or near Court Street, whether they’re in the parade or watching it.
It’s also worth noting how many OU students are vaccinated. In a university public health update released Sept. 14, it was reported that the student vaccination rate surpassed 70%. If this is a high enough percentage for a football game or Homecoming, it should be high enough for HallOUween, or things need to change to make football games safer for the masses.
Cohesion between City Council and Ohio University would maximize efficiency between the two and prove they both genuinely care about their city. If they truly value the safety of Athens residents and students, they need to start being more consistent with how they choose to go about public safety as the pandemic persists.
Tate Raub is a sophomore studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Tate know by tweeting her @tatertot1310.