Douglasites march on with Halloween fun

Preston (from left), Dylan and MarLee Thar pick out pumpkins for Halloween at the Safeway in Douglas on Oct. 16.

Douglas residents don’t see any real reason to abandon trick-or-treating this year, though some said they would be making adjustments to their activities to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Others, however, said they would be making no changes at all.

In interviews with the Douglas Budget, local families said they were looking forward to going door-to-door with their children or handing out candy this year. Their comments echo similar statements made by an even larger number of community members posted on social media.

Jeff Philo said he would “definitely” be taking his four children trick-or-treating, vowing not to do anything differently than in previous years.

“I respect the coronavirus. I’m not saying I want my kids to catch it, but it’s a virus,” he said. “The only way it’s going to go away is if you get it.”

Other residents said they planned to make some adjustments to their activities, like only going out with their own family members, or bringing hand sanitizer with them.

Earlier this month, the Wyoming Department of Health said that trick-or-treating and certain other fall events were still okay – but the department also released a set of recommendations for how best to celebrate in a way that minimizes the risk of spreading the virus. Chief among them was the recommendation that cloth face coverings be worn while trick-or-treating or attending events and that most regular Halloween masks were no substitute for cloth coverings.

Yet no residents contacted by the Budget or who responded to the initial request for interviews said they or their children would be wearing cloth face coverings.

When asked why, some people said they didn’t think cloth face coverings did anything to prevent the spread of the virus, while others saw it more as a personal choice.

Pamela McCarthy plans to take her three children trick-or-treating with her husband, saying her kids would not be wearing cloth coverings or Halloween masks as part of their costumes.

She has been keeping up with the guidelines, she said, but she felt that following them did not necessarily keep you safe.

“I have friends and family who were following the guidelines, and they still were infected,” she said.

The health department’s guidance also recommends that people use hand sanitizer frequently while engaging in activities, that they sanitize frequently touched objects like doorbells, that they maintain six feet of distance from other households and do not go inside, and that people giving out candy use pre-filled bags of individually wrapped candy.

McCarthy said she and her family would be using hand sanitizer, practicing social distancing and would not be trick-or-treating with others from outside her family. She also said she would not let her kids take any candy that was not pre-wrapped, but that was nothing new for them.

Kelle Kristeen Moore said she would be taking the same steps – carrying hand sanitizier and sticking to her family only – with her children for trick-or-treating.

She also said she would be giving out candy to others after they finish trick-or-treating, and that she would be using hand sanitizer before giving out pre-wrapped store-bought candy. She also said that they would be putting the candy in kids’ bags this year, instead of letting them grab it themselves.

Like others, her kids will not be wearing cloth face coverings.

“We believe people should have the choice to either wear or not wear a mask,” she said. “I think people with underlying health conditions and the very young and old should do what they can to protect themselves.”

These perspectives provide a revealing look at how many in the community view Halloween, and they provide a glimpse into how residents perceive the seriousness of the virus itself.

Monique Hershberger said she will be using an animatronic scarecrow with a bowl so that kids can take candy from it without having to knock on their door.

“I’m a little concerned about the virus, but I also think it’s been blown out of proportion,” she said.

All told, community members seem to at least acknowledge impacts of the virus, which has killed more than 210,000 people in the U.S., more than three-times the average annual death rate of the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Converse County, cases have been steadily rising since September, with many more cases being reported since the virus took hold earlier this year.

Despite that, community members seem to hold differing views regarding the virus’ severity. As a result, they plan to adopt varying levels of adherence to health department guidelines, depending on the specific recommendation in question, particularly around the wearing of masks.

Meanwhile, other groups in town have cancelled certain events they’ve held in previous years, like trick-or-treating inside the hospital, or First Baptist Church’s harvest party and chili dinner.

Instead, First Baptist Church will hold an outdoor “trunk-or-treat” at the state fairgrounds, and the hospital plans to have a table with candy set up outside. Douglas’s downtown trick-or-treat event is still scheduled to occur on Friday, Oct. 30.

As an alternative to trick-or-treating, the University of Wyoming Extension’s “Cent$ible Nutrition Program” is encouraging families to go on a ghost hunt. People can access ghost printouts online at http://bit.ly/GhostHuntPrints to put them on their windows, so people walking around town can look for ghosts.

But above all else, residents seem to maintain a near-universal sentiment that kids “deserve” Halloween.

“If we can go to a restaurant or bar, I think the kids can have Halloween,” Philo said. “I’m not going to let my kids live in fear.”

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