COVINGTON — The Covington City Council approved a motion to not limit Halloween activities in neighborhoods at its Sept. 21 meeting. The vote was 4-2, with council members Susie Keck and Hawnethia Williams casting the dissenting votes.
Mayor Steve Horton noted that when he met with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce a couple of weeks ago, the topic about what to do about Halloween came up. Horton said he thought it would best to check with Dr. Audrey Arona, the Gwinnett Newton Rockdale Health Department director.
Arona stated in a written response that the CDC doesn’t have any guidance specific to the holiday.
“Obviously, there shouldn’t be any gatherings, street parties, etc., which are common on Halloween,” Arona wrote. “While with trick-or-treating, it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches or at front doors; however, there are ways to do it safely that we can recommend without canceling it altogether. It is all about how we do things these days.”
Arona sent some recommendations with her response:
♦ Ensure that everyone answering the door is properly wearing a mask.
♦ Ensure that children engaging in trick-or-treating are not sick and are properly wearing masks.
♦ Put a distribution table between the children and the person at the front door on which the candy can be displayed individually and not in a pile.
♦ Use duct tape to mark 6-foot lines in front of the home and front door.
♦ Wash hands often.
♦ Talk to children about safety and social distancing guidelines and expectations.
♦ Be sure children stay on the right side of the road with flashlights and reflective clothing.
♦ Wash hands as soon as children get home.
♦ Inspect the candy and wash hands before and after eating candy.
There is also a website that gives a safe house guide for a safe Halloween this year at Halloween2020.org.
Horton said his concern is the city has street closure requests each year around Halloween.
“Having visited some of those neighborhoods around Halloween in the past, you have some really large groups of people that visit those, and there are just waves of people,” Horton said. “So the question is, do you wish to approve intervention measures in regards to Halloween or not?”
Council member Fleeta Baggett said the answer is simple.
“If you want to take your children trick-or-treating, take them trick-or-treating,” she said. “If you don’t want them to come to your house, turn your porch light out.
“Whether you close the streets or not, or whether we cancel Halloween or not, they’re going to come. I’m saying if you want to participate, leave your porch light on. If you don’t, turn it off. People have got to start taking personal responsibility for themselves.”
Keck stated that residents in her neighborhood — Covington Place — are already having discussions about it on Facebook.
“Because we close the streets, people bring their children there,” Keck said. “If the streets weren’t closed, I don’t think we’d have the 500 children there on Halloween.”
Baggett responded that the same thing happens in every other neighborhood in the city and county.
Trey Sanders, the Community Development director for the city, said they will have an alternative Friday night, Oct. 30, for those concerned about trick-or-treating.
“Halloween this year is on Saturday,” he said. “We have a drive-in movie scheduled for Friday night at Legion Field, and we’re going to make it a Halloween movie, and we’re working with the police and fire departments to set up locations where as families drive in, we can give them and their kids bags of candy.”
Horton asked for a consensus from the council on the issue. Kenneth Morgan said he had no problem with no restrictions. Keck said she would not have her porch light on. Williams stated she is not for Halloween. Don Floyd said he had no problem, and Anthony Henderson said he agreed with no restrictions.
“People have got to take personal responsibility at some point in time,” Henderson said.
Baggett made a motion to have no restrictions for Halloween. Floyd seconded the motion and it passed, 4-2, with Keck and Williams opposed.
Editor's Note: On Sept. 21, the CDC published specific guidance in reference to Halloween. Dr. Arona shared guidance with the council as a follow up to her first statement. The guidance is available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html