LA CROSSE, Wis. - (WXOW) - Halloween is an important holiday for many kids and families but this year, things are going to look much different and much safer.
Halloween is the holiday that kicks off the season and for many young kids and families, it is a favorite. The candy, the costumes, and the celebrations all make for a fun filled day and night.
In previous years, the La Crosse Police Department has provided the community with guidance when it comes to Halloween in an attempt to keep everyone safe. This year, they have added recommendations to keep everyone safe amid the pandemic. The department is following health department recommendations given the recent increase in cases.
"The spike in the numbers in our community is significant and this would be maybe the one year that you just hold off and find something a little bit unique that you can do at home with the family," said La Crosse Police Captain Jason Melby.
There are a few things that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services specifically does not recommend for this holiday.
"First and foremost, large gatherings for costume contests, obviously those are discouraged," said Captain Melby. "The door-to-door trick-or-treating is another thing that they discourage. Actual Halloween parties and drink specials, Halloween always tends to create a larger bar crowd, that obviously is highly discouraged. Especially in light of the governor's order on the 25% occupancy. Just in the interest of safety, we really recommend that you avoid those activities and hopefully we can get our COVID numbers back down prior to this significant spike and have a little bit more of a control over the community from the aspect of the spread of COVID."
Actual face-to-face trick-or-treating is highly discouraged and the La Crosse Police Department is encouraging the community to follow the recommendations they have provided but they won't be enforcing them.
"This is obviously somewhat of a personal choice that is left up to people but the recommendation from the city of La Crosse and the State Department of Health is that you do not participate in face-to-face trick-or-treating," said Captain Melby. "We do provide the recommendations and they are just guidelines. They are not something that the Police Department or Health Department are going to respond to and go and tell people to stop doing it."
Contact and close interaction is a huge aspect of this holiday. Many different hands grabbing candy out of a basket can lead to the spread of germs and it adds to the risk if kids are going to a number of houses.
"We know that kids tend to put their hands in their mouth and on their face a lot, and with this holiday in particular there is a lot of contact with people touching something, the kids touching it, and then touching their face. We want to avoid that," said Kaila Baer, a Public Information Officer with the Trempealeau County Health Department.
Although these recommendations may seem like they are wrecking the holiday plans, there are many fun and safe alternatives that all members of the community can participate in. For parents and families, Trempealeau County Health Department has come up with some ideas that can help people kick-off the holiday season in a fun way.
"A virtual costume party because the kids are all really excited about their costumes. So, connecting through Zoom and maybe FaceTime to show off your costumes," said Baer. "You can do a lot to help decorate your home and neighborhood with decorations, carved pumpkins, and showcasing that on social media. I think we have all become more connected on social media with the pandemic so really showing your Halloween spirit there, can help the family and the kids to have more fun."
Baer also suggests a Halloween scavenger hunt for families throughout the yard or the neighborhood.
She explained that although trick-or-treating is not recommended, they understand that people will decide to do it anyway so the Health Department has some suggestions.
"If you are sick at all, don't participate and we do recommend that children, parents, and hosts wear a face covering even underneath a costume mask because the costume masks aren't made to prevent COVID. We recommend carrying hand sanitizer and using that between houses," suggested Baer.
If a neighborhood were to decide to organize a safe one-way parade type of trick-or-treating she gave some suggestions for that as well.
"They could have goodie bags lined up on the sidewalk or on the end of a garage driveway so kids could grab one bag and then move on so there is not that hand to hand exchange between people," said Baer.
While this Halloween is different than most, it is important for parents and families to stay positive and make the most of it. Parents can make this holiday even better for their children, it's all about what you make of it.
Baer says that it's a holiday everyone can still celebrate without the big traditions.
"It's important to remember that this is just one year and we will get through all of this together. The kids aren't alone in having to make some adjustments this year."