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Trick-or-treat returns to the East Bay, with Covid risk sharply reduced but not gone

on October 26, 2021

Robin Donovan’s 13-year-old son didn’t get to trick-or-treat last year because of the pandemic. Instead, he and some friends shared a big bag of candy in the family’s El Cerrito backyard. Donovan’s son wasn’t alone. 

“Normally we got a lot of trick-or-treaters, hundreds in the past. Last year we didn’t have any,” Donovan said. “When I talked to people last year, nobody was planning to send their kids trick-or-treating.” 

Donovan’s son, 12 at the time, was old enough to understand the risk. Nevertheless, he felt disappointed. This year, however, the festivities are back on as safety precautions ease with the availability of vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, gave the green light to trick-or-treating this year during a CNN interview on Oct. 10.  

 “It’s a good time to reflect on why it’s important to get vaccinated, but go out and enjoy Halloween as well as other holidays that will be coming up,” Fauci said. 

This year, Donovan’s son plans to dress up as a character in the TV show “Sunny Family Cult” and go trick-or-treating with his friends. Donovan isn’t particularly concerned about COVID-19, since most of the time, the kids will be outdoors, wearing masks, and everyone in their group is vaccinated. Besides, she feels that kids deserve an authentic Halloween because for so long, they couldn’t do anything.

Trick-or-treat doesn’t come without risk, but in the Bay Area, it’s greatly reduced because of the high vaccination rates, said Dr. John Swartzberg, a physician and professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

There are two ways that young trick-or-treaters could get infected: through the person who gives out the candy, or, through the candy. For people giving out candy, Swartzberg suggests putting it on a table rather than handing it to kids, and wearing a mask. For parents and trick-or-treaters, he recommends frequent use of hand sanitizer. For the candy itself, Swartzberg suggests letting it sit for 24 hours before opening, or wiping wrappers with disinfectant if the kids can’t wait.   

Swartzberg likened the defense against the virus to Swiss cheese. “For the virus to get to the person on the other end, it has to traverse holes in multiple different places. To make it more difficult to get all the way through that block of Swiss cheese, here are the things that can be done: masking, social distancing, trying not to get together with other people or large crowds of people. And, of course, if available, vaccination.”

As kids flock to neighborhoods in earnest this year, other Halloween traditions are also back on, many of them outdoors.

Over 180 people showed up at the El Cerrito Community Center’s pumpkin splash on Oct. 15, including 150 who registered in advance, said Taylor Melton, recreation supervisor. The pool was transformed into a floating pumpkin patch, with golden gourds bobbing in the water. Children dove in to retrieve the pumpkins, which they then took home. 

In Hercules, a Trunk-or-Treat event will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Community Swim Center parking lot. Instead of going door to door, children will collect candy from decorated car trucks parked throughout the lot. A Halloween-themed movie will play during the event, and there will be prizes for the most creative trunk. 

For history buffs, Richmond might be a good destination. Karen Buchanan, founder of Urban History Hikes, will lead a haunted history hike starting from the Point Richmond History Museum at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the dog- and kid-friendly hike, which features actors as ghost characters.

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