Halloween is looking more normal this year than last, even as the delta variant continues to fuel cases of COVID-19 and many of the young children looking forward to spooky festivities aren’t eligible to be vaccinated.
A number of Halloween-related events are taking place throughout the Bangor region after a year that saw many go on hold. Many are outside and still modified from their pre-pandemic format. And, of course, there will be trick-or-treating on Oct. 31.
All in all, those outdoor activities, including trick-or-treating, are relatively safe, according to health experts. Inside activities with lots of unmasked people remain dangerous, however, especially when factoring children under the age of 12 who can’t be vaccinated into the safety equation.
When it comes to evaluating if it’s safe to attend these events, outside celebrations will be the safest, according to Dr. Peter Millard, a former epidemiology staffer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and physician at the Seaport Community Health Center in Belfast.
“The main point is that outside is really safe. Maybe if you’re in a concert venue where you’re packed cheek by jowl like sardines, maybe there would be a possibility of transmission,” he said. “But really, trick-or-treating is probably completely safe.”
Earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, there was concern over the virus spreading via touch. But scientists’ understanding of the virus has evolved. The virus is a respiratory illness that is predominantly transmitted through the air, Millard said.
“I’m not trying to suggest you shouldn’t wash your hands, but it’s not a major source of transmission,” he said. “You don’t need to worry about people touching wrappers and then opening it and eating it.”
In years past, the staple Halloween event for the Old Town/Orono YMCA was its haunted house. But the YMCA canceled that event last year and won’t bring it back again this year because of COVID-19 concerns, said Shawn Fournier, the organization’s membership and marketing director.
Instead, the YMCA will continue a modified, outdoor event it started last year.
The organization will sponsor drive-in movie events on Oct. 22 and 23. There will be a family pumpkin-carving and trunk-or-treat before the Oct. 22 movie. The next night, billed as the haunted drive-in movie night, costumed people will move around the parking lot and scare movie watchers.
“The Haunted Y was always a very popular event for us and people in the community, and we’re thinking outside the box,” Fournier said. “How can we still offer events that people would still want to attend?
“Last year we had a fairly good turnout, and we hope that we get the same turnout again this year.”
Some familiar Halloween events will continue to be on hiatus this year, including the Fright at the Fort event at Fort Knox State Historic Site in Prospect that relied on volunteers to frighten guests as they walked through the fort. The multi-weekend event attracted thousands of people before the pandemic.
Another event that won’t happen this year is Bangor’s Zombie Walk, whose organizers said Monday on Facebook that the event was again canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Nationwide, CDC director Rochelle Walensky told CBS’ Face the Nation that outdoor trick-or-treating is safe if crowd sizes are managed.