The majority of people can probably recite one of the most basic lessons of the coronavirus pandemic: Don’t get too close to others, especially without a mask. Knowing that, it would be totally reasonable to think that the picture above is from a previous Halloween, before “coronavirus” was part of our daily vocabulary. Except it’s not.
All of the photos in this slideshow are from this past Thursday, and, get this, they’re from Wuhan, China. Yes, the city where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, the same one that went through a 76-day lockdown to contain the virus. However, while the U.S.—which this week recorded 88,521 cases in one day, or approximately one new case per second—continues to battle a fierce outbreak of the disease, China has largely gotten it under control.
This containment has allowed life to generally return to normal in the country. At the beginning of October, China reported that more than 637 million visits were made to tourist attractions during Golden Week, its annual weeklong holiday that was extended to eight days this year.
Normal life includes holidays like Halloween, and in this case, the people of Wuhan were out and about at the Happy Valley amusement park. Despite China’s low case numbers—it has reported 41 new cases in the last 24 hours, according to the World Health Organization—some vestiges of the virus’ effects, such as the use of face masks, were still visible. (It should be noted that China does not classify asymptomatic cases as “confirmed cases”).
The scenes of people, with and without masks, in large crowds are a bit shocking at first. Such gatherings would be unthinkable in much of the U.S. at the moment, and go against the advice we’ve heard from public health officials. The images also kind of feel like a slap in the face, a reminder that if we had taken the virus more seriously, perhaps we could be closer to having the normalcy that the people of Wuhan have.
Alas, the U.S. is nowhere near that yet, and Halloween is going to be very different in the country this year.
But don’t scream! (Not yet, anyway.) This doesn’t mean that Americans can’t take part in Halloween activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published Halloween guidelines for those looking to celebrate safely this year.
It has divided traditional Halloween activities, including trick-or-treating and costume contests, among others, into three risk categories: low, moderate and high. Low-risk activities mainly cover minimum contact and alternative celebration ideas for people who don’t want to take any chances. These include carving pumpkins with members of your household, doing a Halloween scavenger hunt at a distance and having a virtual Halloween costume contest. (I’ve already seen a few costume contests this year, and people seem to dig them!)
In terms of moderate risk activities, the CDC has a bit of everything. It suggests one-way trick-or-treating, which involves goodie bags being lined up for families to grab and go. If you decide to do this, the agency advises you wash your hands before and after preparing the bags. Other moderate-risk activities include an outdoor socially distanced Halloween parade, an outdoor costume party where masks are worn and social distancing is respected or an outdoor, one-way haunted forest with face masks and social distancing.
For those hoping to do traditional trick-or-treating, sorry to break it to you, but that’s a high-risk activity, per the CDC. The agency recommends people avoid these activities to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They also include: trunk-or-treating, crowded indoor costume parties, indoor haunted houses where people may be screaming, hayrides or tractor rides with people from different households, using alcohol or drugs that can increase risky behaviors and traveling to fall festivals that are not in your community.
Check out the complete list of low-, moderate- and high-risk activities on the CDC’s website.
As many have said, we’re going to have to learn to live with this virus for a while. Does that mean we have to stop living and enjoying holidays like Halloween? No, just that we have to go about it differently, always thinking about health and safety first. If anything, I hope these pictures of Halloween in Wuhan encourage us to do better. We all have a role to play in eradicating this virus.
Hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween!