DALLAS - North Texas counties are offering conflicting guidance about trick or treating during the pandemic.
A day after Tarrant County released guidance on how families can more safely trick-or-treat, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson teamed up with a different message.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said trick-or-treating is not safe right now due to the pandemic and the possible spread of the coronavirus.
Jenkins and Johnson worked to get that message out about a safe Halloween Thursday morning.
“It's really up to all of us to do what we can to get those numbers lower. And we all love our kids and Halloween is a special time. It's a kid-centric holiday that they all look forward to. But I know as a parent and we all know there’s... it's not the only way you can have fun. To go from house to house getting candy, right?” said Judge Jenkins, who dressed up for the interview. “We know we can find ways to make memories and have fun as families together with the people we live around all the time without doing that.”
Mayor Johnson said his sons William and George love Halloween. It’s a big deal to them and they were pretty upset to learn they would not be going out Saturday night.
“No fair!” Johnson’s sons argued.
But the two costumed Darth Vader and Ghostbusters characters softened with the promise of baking cookies, carving pumpkins and watching movies.
“What we want is for everyone in Dallas to follow our lead. I just want to let everyone know there are still ways you can have fun and your kids can still have a blast and not actually put your neighbors or yourself at greater risk,” the mayor said.
Jenkins said his family also plans to stay home and will take a virtual hayride from the couch then have an Easter egg-type scavenger hunt for candy.
“The numbers don't lie, they are creeping up, in a flattened curve, not spiking like in summer, but every day when I open my COVID dashboard, the numbers continue to creep up,” said Dr. Joseph Chang, Parkland Health chief medical officer.
Earlier this week, the Tarrant County health department issued some safety guidelines for those who are still planning to go trick-or-treating or pass out candy.
The department considers trick-or-treating a medium risk activity but said there are some things people can do to make it safer such as placing factory-wrapped treats out on a table, avoiding homemade treats, using hand sanitizer after grabbing anything from a common bowl, staying 6 feet away from other families and wiping down candy before it is eaten.
With local leaders recommending alternatives and extra safety precautions, communities are getting creative with their Halloween celebrations this year.
The Semones Family YMCA in Dallas usually has a big indoor Halloween carnival that draws hundreds of people out. Instead, they are putting together an outdoor trunk or treat event for parents who are still weighing their options about trick or treating Saturday.
“We were thinking we weren’t gonna do anything,” said Semones YMCA Exec. Director Diddy Fulbright. “And a lot of families came and said they felt like their children needed some joy.”
“We’re actually going to stay in and just maybe carve some pumpkins and watch some kid-friendly scary movies. Maybe get some pizza or something,” said parent Melissa Rodriguez.
Parents are trying to give their kids something to celebrate this year.
“You’ve got to give the kids a sense of feeling of normal and schedule and routine,” said parent Kristen Schutlz. “And this is going to be the only time he’s going to be 5 and have a Halloween.”
Southlake PD’s annual trunk or treat event usually brings in up to 1,500 people each year. So this year, they had to get creative.
“We used a 10-foot PVC pipe to make sure we distanced it from everything we have whenever the candy’s going through to keep as much space as possible between everyone,” explained Brad Uptmore with Southlake PD.
The police and fire departments teamed up with about 30 other Southlake businesses to form a “candy caravan,” handing out treats to passing cars on a designated route. Parents say it’s a good alternative to trick or treating.
“The world’s really changed a lot for children,” Fulbright said. “And as we go into holiday seasons, when they’re here and they’re not having this and they’re not having that, it’s like what can you do that can be safe and fun.”
Three other YMCA locations will host similar outdoor events in Oak Cliff and Waxahachie Friday. An outdoor, socially distanced harvest festival will be held at Park South on Saturday where masks will be required.
While some places like Los Angeles have banned trick-or-treating, in Texas, the governor's order has stripped local authorities of much of their emergency powers right now.