UC Berkeley community prepares for Halloween amid COVID-19 safety concerns

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Campus professors, ASUC senators and students have expressed concerns about COVID-19 safety with the return of Halloween-themed celebrations and events.

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With Halloween approaching, students and other members of the UC Berkeley community expressed COVID-19 safety concerns as several campus events return.

Student organizations across campus are hosting various Halloween-themed events, according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff. Among these are an arts and crafts workshop hosted by the Berkeley Art Studio at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, as well as Bowles Hall’s annual haunted house with the theme of Cursed Castle set to take place this Friday, according to a Facebook event. Attendance for the haunted house requires a Cal ID and a green badge on the symptom screener.

Several residential halls have already had Halloween-related events over the last few weeks, Ratliff added.

“Around Halloween, many students wish to dress up and celebrate,” stated a campus Halloween safety email that will be sent out this Thursday. “We encourage students to be attentive to their surroundings, celebrate in safe ways, look out for each other and demonstrate the care and respect we all expect from our Berkeley community.”

The email advises the campus community to take COVID-19 precautions such as gathering outdoors or only with fully vaccinated individuals and wearing facial coverings in indoor public places.

Although there are no officially sponsored ASUC Halloween events, ASUC Senator Muz Ahmad said some senate offices are hosting their own community-specific events.

Ahmad added that COVID-19 transmission at Halloween parties or gatherings this weekend remains an obvious concern.

He said although masks are required during on-campus events, the same mandate cannot be expected for off-campus events. He also urged students to get tested before attending gatherings this weekend to ensure that they are not COVID-19 carriers.

“Thanks to the UC-wide vaccine mandate and Berkeley being nearly 100% vaccinated for all students, staff, and faculty, I expect a safe, fun, and normal Halloween for everyone to enjoy,” Ahmad said in an email.

ASUC Senator Amy Chen expressed that campus is not taking enough precaution against COVID-19 with Halloween approaching.

Chen said she is concerned that mass gatherings over Halloween may risk another round of COVID-19 outbreaks on campus, and that she would prefer if gatherings were limited and COVID-19 testing was required on campus.

In addition to issues from COVID-19, campus junior Hillary Sim said she is also concerned about the seasonal flu and the lack of regular monitoring for safety screenings she has experienced on campus.

John Swartzberg, campus professor emeritus of infectious disease and vaccinology at the School of Public Health, noted the risk associated with Halloween parties this weekend, as well as the importance of being vaccinated.

Swartzberg said a major concern for Halloween is that most of the people trick-or-treating will be children under 12, who are ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. He advised incorporating children’s masks as part of their costumes in order to make sure they keep their masks on.

Similarly, Sim suggested that incorporating masks into costumes opened “a new possibility of being creative and festive.”

Contact Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @tkapoor_dc.