Berkeley residents celebrate Halloween with socially distanced activities amid pandemic

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Various areas and neighborhoods in Berkeley hosted Halloween activities for families. According to Visit Berkeley spokesperson Dan Marengo, the Fourth Street shopping district arranged a drive-thru light show at dusk as well as a virtual Halloween costume contest for children.

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Berkeley residents celebrated a mostly socially distanced Halloween on Saturday night with events organized by the city’s neighborhoods in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The Elmwood neighborhood organized a Halloween scavenger hunt where families could look for letters hidden in the windows of participating businesses to solve a word scramble, according to the district’s website. Visit Berkeley spokesperson Dan Marengo added that the Fourth Street shopping district arranged a drive-thru light show at dusk as well as a virtual Halloween costume contest for children.

“When it comes to Halloween, I know it’s a lot of fun and people are used to going out,” Marengo said. “Families and kids always look forward to dressing up and trick-or-treating, but I really hope that people followed their local COVID-19 guidelines and celebrated responsibly.”

Current California public health guidelines prohibit gatherings including more than three households as well as those held indoors, according to the California Department of Public Health website. Campus junior June Hee Park, who works as a security monitor in the residence halls, noted that there were more students than usual leaving or entering the dorms.

While UC Berkeley has put guidelines in place to discourage large groups from gathering at fraternity houses, according to Park, the school cannot control when or where students gather off campus. Park added that some students would put on their masks immediately before entering the residence hall but would not be wearing them while outside.

“When it comes to people going out for parties, it’s a hard question because I personally live in an apartment-style dorm, so I’m living with two other girls,” Park said. “If I was living alone I would definitely want to be with other people, but I think frat parties are not acceptable during these times of the pandemic.”

Most fraternities did not invite guests and celebrated within their social bubbles, according to campus sophomore Alice Lin, who added that she could not speak for all fraternities. Lin, who is a member of Alpha Chi Omega, said the sorority explicitly prohibited members from going to fraternity properties.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, families were still able to take part in “the Halloween spirit,” according to Marengo.

Lin also noted that more people were walking outside in Downtown Berkeley and that some of the city’s former liveliness and atmosphere were returning.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard Southside so loud or seen so many people walking around near the residence halls,” Lin said. “In some ways, it reminded me of last year before all of this craziness started, with people laughing and enjoying themselves with a few friends.”

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.