Asst. News Editor
This article is also available in print: Quaker Campus, Volume 19 – Issue 5, dated Oct. 28, 2021, on the Whittier College campus.
The wind is chilly, candy is flying off the shelves, and many students (myself included) are in a whirlwind of midterms. This must mean one thing — Halloween season is here.
This year is a bit different than last; while most of us were bundled inside due to a raging pandemic that had the feeling of no end in sight in 2020, this year has shifted quite a bit. With the introduction of the vaccine at the end of last year, 2021 is when rollout kicked into high gear. Now, as of Oct. 24, over 60 percent of individuals in the U.S. have at least one shot of any of the three COVID-19 vaccines. Even with this, the emerging delta variant still rages on. This poses the question — should Halloween celebrations be cancelled once again?
COVID-19 has dominated the lives of all for the past year-and-a-half. In March of 2020, the world shut down as COVID-19 had erupted into a catastrophic global pandemic. Worldwide shut-downs and stay-at-home orders lasted for most of the year, causing the holidays to look different than in the past. Halloween, especially, had to be celebrated differently due to the holiday consisting of so much physical contact. For me, I usually go to celebrate Halloween with my friends, or, in years past, I’ve been to Disneyland on the holiday. Last year, my Halloween was staying inside and having a spooky movie marathon. (While I do love It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, that just was not enough to get the full Halloween experience.)
I know that I am not the only one. During the fall season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out guidelines for the holiday, categorizing them from low to high risk. Low-risk activities included “carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them,” while the high-risk activity section put a heavy emphasis on not participating in anything that involved contact with others, such as “attending crowded costume parties held indoors” and “participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door-to-door.” All this encompassed last year’s rule to not be with those that are not a part of your household/family in order to avoid spreading the virus. This was a drastic change for all of us. Humans, being the social animals we are, usually spend our holidays with others; I know I did. But this was a time where the vaccine was being developed, and not available to the general public. Now, times are different with the increase of vaccinations — especially in the U.S.
In December of 2020, the first (of many) COVID-19 vaccinations were given to nurses in New York City, from the company Pfizer Inc. Since then, over “411 million doses have been administered, fully vaccinating over 189 million people or 57.2 percent of the total U.S. population.” This is causing drastic changes in the way our lives are currently, with many vaccinated individuals being able to see family and friends for the first in a long time, going back to work, or just being able to live life as normally as possible. This allows us to be able to celebrate holidays like they are supposed to be celebrated — with each other. That’s why I believe that Halloween should not be cancelled again.
This is a time to be getting back to a life of celebrating the concept of existing with others. COVID-19 is a terrifying beast that has affected so many lives, but vaccination efforts have allowed society to finally be able to go back to celebrate and be social once more. I, however, exercise this with caution. While over 50 percent of the population is vaccinated, that still leaves many people unvaccinated, which has caused the emergence of the delta variant of COVID-19 to become widespread.
The Delta variant is a highly contagious strain of the COVID-19 disease that is “believed to be more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and studies have shown that it may be more likely than the original virus to put infected people in the hospital.” This strain first began to show in India around December 2020, and has consistently raged on, causing even vaccinated people to be susceptible to contracting COVID-19. As of now, over 40,000 vaccinated individuals have contracted COVID-19 in the USA. Caution needs to be taken when attending Halloween events while the Delta variant is still rampant. Safety is a number one priority while celebrating, especially right now.
With the constant dichotomy between the steady vaccine rates and breakthrough infections, the question of what to do for the upcoming holidays plagues my mind. Do we go all out and have the biggest bash of the year? Do we stay inside like we did last year? There is a constant fear of what may happen when we go outside, but the utmost longing of what we are missing. So, what do we do? Personally, I think we need to find a middle ground. I think there are situations where we can go have a small celebration for Halloween, but we do it with the safety of both the community as a whole and ourselves as individuals in mind.
COVID-19 has not gone away — not even a little bit. As seen before, the Delta variant is still heavily affecting communities, especially ones with low vaccination rates. The effects of the pandemic are still raging on, so every celebration this holiday season should be planned with caution. A lot of the guidelines on what and what not to do are changing based on whether or not someone is vaccinated. The CDC states that “well-fitting masks [should be worn] over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.” The Center also states that if “you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.” The CDC says that the most efficient way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.
A lot of the previous Halloween season was spent inside. For me, this caused a huge strain on my mental health. I felt a longing to see friends and family, and get to experience the normal life I once knew. When the pandemic hit, it felt like a rug being swept from underneath my feet, and everything came crashing down. The Halloween season always brought me a sense of joy and happiness since it’s my favorite holiday. With the pandemic, though, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread when it came along in 2020. It reminded me of all the things I couldn’t do anymore. This year, I want that to change! I think it’s important not just for my own mental well-being, but for our collective societies’ as well. We need to understand that staying within the confines of our house can be extremely detrimental to our minds. Humans are made to experience life, not to shelter from it. We need to, again, do this with extreme caution. Being vaccinated is the best protection against COVID-19, and people who are willingly unvaccinated are truthfully scarier than the Halloween houses that pop up around this time of year. They are allowing the Delta variant to carry on and wreak havoc on communities that are trying to resemble some essence of normal that can be allowed. Safety needs to be maintained throughout this Halloween season especially, and if people can not comply with the basic protocol to be safe during this time, then I say have them be the ones who stay home.
Halloween season does not need to be cancelled, it just needs to be exercised with caution and safety! At the end of the day, do whatever it is that makes you most comfortable. If you feel unsafe right now due to the condition of the pandemic, stay inside! Personally, I think there is no shame in doing that. If you want to get outside and participate in activities with other individuals, remember to stay safe while doing so — mask up, social distance, and remember to get vaccinated! Also, if you are going to hang out with people outside of your household, do it in a smaller group setting, or outside! If you would like to see more information and tips on how to stay safe this Halloween season, check out the Quaker Campus’s News Article entitled “13 Tips and Tricks to Survive ‘Pandemic Halloween.’” Have a happy and safe Halloween!
Featured Image: Courtesy of Nick Fewings / Unsplash