Oakland County residents celebrate Halloween amid COVID-19

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State and local officials, as well as parents, are finding alternative ways to celebrate the holiday in a spook-tacular yet safe way.

“For kids and families to go out trick-or-treating and for individuals to be handing out candy like they normally do, that is considered a high-risk activity which is really not recommended,” said Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services citing the CDC, which considers Halloween a high-risk activity.

In this interview, Sutfin offers trick-or-treating best practices:

Lynn Sutfin of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offers safe Halloween suggestions.

Sutfin additionally suggests going to the CDC website to see a list of Halloween activities ranging from low to high risk.

The CDC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Oakland County Health Division have prepared guidelines for a happy Halloween.

“We are definitely working with our local health departments and our other stakeholders, in making sure that communities are aware of the best practices so that they can implement them themselves,” Sutfin said. “Much of the decisions right now as far as whether communities will be doing trick-or-treating, or what kind of activities that will be happening are being made at the local level, so we’re providing them the information we have so that they can make as safe of a holiday as possible.”

Bloomfield Hills neighborhood takes Halloween precautions

Halloween parties were cancelled for my Lumberg’s two sons who attend Bloomfield Hills Schools. Lumberg’s neighborhood though is still celebrating, taking the extra steps to ensure a fun, but safe Halloween. 

“My kids will be doing a small candy hunt in the front lawn and an outdoor movie with social distancing,” Lumberg said.

Lumberg’s neighborhood association sent an email to homeowners suggesting to put candy out on a table in front of their house for trick-or-treaters and watch from a distance, to minimize direct contact. Homeowners also are encouraged to wear masks and “respect social distancing as some of our neighbors are high risk.” Those not wanting to participate in trick-or-treating this year were told to turn off their landscape lighting. 

“Halloween will definitely look different this year,” Lumberg said. “But there are lots of safe ways to have fun and celebrate at home with family and friends who are in your social circle.  Keeping the kids safe is the most important.”

Oakland County specific recommendations

Along with the CDC and Oakland County guidelines, both national and state-wide goals for Michiganders should align said Sutfin and Bill Mullan, the media and communications officer for Oakland County Executive David Coulter. 

“Our main priority is everyone’s safety,” Mullan said. “We’re in the middle of seeing another surge in cases, not only in Oakland County, but state-wide and nationally. There is always the risk of seeing a further increase in cases when so many people are going out in public and coming in contact with each other in some way or another.”

While both the nation and world are in a fragile state, Oakland County is particularly vulnerable right now, he said. 

“Just this week we had a total of 306 new cases,” Mullan said. “Our seven-day average for cases is 235. We’re approaching numbers we last saw at the first peak in April, which gives us pause to realize we want people to go through the holiday as safely as they can.”

Part of Oakland County Executive Government’s efforts has been relaying information from the state and national government to keep everyone safe this Halloween. 

“Our guidance reflects the guidance from the state and the CDC,” Mullan said. “It’s our experience that most of the cities, villages and townships in Oakland county will follow our guidance and utilize our resources for their residents.”

Masks seem to be a top way to keep people healthy this season and although it seems straight forward, it also brings up some concerns.

“A mask that you might wear with a costume is no substitute for a cloth mask to cover your face,” Mullan said. “We recommend no matter what you’re doing, you continue to wear that cloth mask. If you’re wearing both and having trouble breathing, we recommend finding a Halloween-themed cloth mask that will cover your nose and mouth.”

Oakland County Executive Government is doing what they can to ensure residents have a fun Halloween experience but keep health and safety at the forefront of celebrations.

“The important thing to realize is with any event or holiday that can draw a lot of people within close proximity of each other, we have concerns,” Mullan said. “Safety is paramount here. We want people to be safe and we want to minimize the spread of the virus; it’s really nothing different than what we’ve been saying all along, just extrapolating  it on how it applies to Halloween.” 

While Mullan knows this Halloween might be a challenge, he also thinks it can be an opportunity for Oakland residents to get outside.

“I think Halloween is going to be really good for people feeling cooped up,” Mullan said. “Halloween is really an outdoor activity so that does add an element to it that reduces the likelihood of transmission, but you need to take personal responsibility and take those steps that will prevent that further transmission for yourselves and others.”