CITY HALL (AP) — Trick-or-treating will still be allowed on Halloween this year, but city health officials are advising precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Mayor Lyda Krewson held a rare in-person press conference Thursday, stressing: “Halloween is not canceled this year. … But we’re asking everyone to take a few extra precautions, so that we call all celebrate Halloween, eat candy, have fun and be safe.”
She turned the press conference over to Health Department Director Dr. Frederick Echols, who prefaced his remarks by acknowledging that “Halloween is a time of wonder and excitement for children and adults, as it lends the opportunity to pretend to be someone or something else, so able to escape the day-to-day pressures of everyday life.”
The celebrations will look different this year, but that enjoyment will still be possible.
Social distancing and face mask requirements w.,VBGill be in effect on Halloween. Echols asked parents, children and business owners to all do their part to make the festivities safe.
He recommended socially distanced trunk-or-treat events with pre-packaged goodie bags instead of a communal candy bowl with individual candies, which he said could spread the virus. At the press conference, Echols displayed a table with individually wrapped candy spaced far enough apart that hands wouldn’t need to touch while taking the treats.
Echols said that costume face masks counted, but that another face covering should be used if the wearer gets hot and takes off the costume mask. He said the city was not recommending haunted houses and asked owners to send safety plans to the city to make sure those plans are effective.
“COVID-19 has been really stressful for us all, so this can be a break to really take a breather from the stress of the pandemic,” Echols said. “But we have to do so safely.”
He said that, if the precautions were followed, the city shouldn’t see a bump in coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County health officials have been overwhelmed with a rise in recent coronavirus cases, and hospital leaders warn it could get worse if residents don’t follow public health recommendations.
Kelley Vollmar, director of the Jefferson County Health Department, said the agency was stretched thin trying to track down everyone who has been in contact with an infected person.
She said that back when the county had a stay-at-home order in place, residents sick with coronavirus typically were in close proximity to about three or four other people. Now, she said, an infected person might have been near as many as 20 people. The larger number of exposures is putting a strain on contact tracers at the department.
Dr. Karthik Iyer, chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Festus, said the hospital hadn’t been overwhelmed yet. But he’s concerned at the pace of the rise in coronavirus cases.
The county reported 64 new coronavirus cases on average each day for the past week, according to state health department data. That’s almost double the daily new cases reported in St. Louis, which has many more residents.
“It’s going to be a very tough winter ahead,” Iyer said.
Missouri has reported 127,912 confirmed cases since the virus first hit the state, including 1,799 new cases Thursday, according to state health department. Roughly 1,347 new cases have been reported each day on overage over the past week. The state also reported 10 new deaths, bringing the total to 2,128.
The city of St. Louis has had 7,086 confirmed cases as of Thursday, with 111 additional suspected cases. The COVID-19 death toll has hit 200.
MetroSTL.com staff contributed to this report.