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UCLA community discusses cautions students should take for safe Halloween weekend

A UCLA health professional advises students to adhere to social distancing requirements this Halloween to prevent a large-scale outbreak of COVID-19. (Kanishka Mehra/Photo editor)

By Elizabeth Sherwood

Oct. 29, 2020 3:48 p.m.

Students should avoid large gatherings for Halloween to prevent a schoolwide spike in COVID-19 cases, a UCLA health professional said.

The decisions students make this weekend may mean the difference between having a significant or minimal increase in cases, said Beth Glenn, a health policy and management professor.

“Now is the time to really be cautious as we move into the flu season, to try to prevent a major uptick in cases on campus and in the county,” she said.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health updated its reopening guidelines Friday to limit the size and duration of gatherings. All gatherings should be outside, last less than two hours and attendees should stay 6 feet apart at all times, according to the guidelines. Gatherings should also be limited to attendees from three or fewer households, the guidelines state.

Even though UCLA has not yet seen a major outbreak, students should follow precautionary measures – especially over the Halloween weekend, Glenn said. Although social gatherings among students seem inevitable, Glenn said something as simple as moving an approved gathering outdoors could limit the spread of the virus.

[Related link: LACDPH classifies cluster of COVID-19 cases on the Hill as an outbreak]

LA County has more than 300,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while Westwood has more than 450, according to data from the LACDPH.

“We have a tendency to think if we don’t know anyone that currently has the virus or we don’t know anyone that’s had it recently, that it’s not circulating,” she said. “What we know is that it is still circulating, so if you come into contact with someone and aren’t using proper precautions, then you can still become infected.”

UCPD urges members of the UCLA community to follow LACDPH guidelines and to respect the safety of their peers in light of potential gatherings this weekend, said UCPD spokesperson Scott Scheffler. He added that UCPD will station officers around campus all weekend to ensure the safety of the community.

Students should find ways to have fun for Halloween in ways that don’t involve large gatherings in consideration of other students, said Janaki Patel, a third-year biophysics student.

“Even if these people don’t care about themselves contracting a virus, they have a social responsibility to make sure that they stop the spread of a virus,” Patel said. “That doesn’t mean don’t have a good time, but just have a good time with your immediate roommates. It’s about being smart and responsible, because we all want to go back to school, but we can’t unless the people that are already here are being responsible.”

Catarina Paul, a second-year economics student, said some students believe spreading COVID-19 between students poses little risk because of the high recovery rate of college-age people. Of all patients in the 18 to 29 age range infected in the U.S., only 0.5% of cases have resulted in death, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, ignoring health guidelines for Halloween parties still puts others at risk, Paul said.

“I think a lot of people are comfortable getting (COVID-19) but they don’t think how getting (COVID-19) affects way more people than just them,” Paul said. “Partying really seems selfish because once you get it, you can spread it to so many more people.”

Katrina Carpizo, a second-year biology student, said students should put things into perspective before making plans this Halloween.

“Is it really worth it to party for the sake of it being Halloween (which is) a holiday that happens every single year, or is it more responsible to sit this holiday out for the sake of reducing the spread of COVID-19?” Carpizo said. “Those who are actively choosing to stay at home are doing the right thing.”

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Elizabeth Sherwood | Assistant News editor
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
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