COVID-19 has stopped many events this year but the traditional gathering in cemeteries on Nov. 1 and 2 to honor departed loved ones, and the spookiest time of the year, Halloween, are still a go, as long as everyone complies with COVID-19 restrictions.
People participating in All Souls’ Day, All Saints’ Day, and Halloween are required to follow all COVID-19 protocols, which include wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing of hands.
Warren Villagomez, chairman of the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, acknowledged, though, that the wearing of masks on Halloween may be a challenge since you won’t be able to distinguish between those who are wearing masks for protection and those who aren’t.
As for All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day, both occasions are observed outside, Villagomez said, but they will still work with the clergy to ensure that everyone will be adhering to protocols such as the entry points, social distancing, and wearing a mask.
Even with the cemetery plots being so close together, Villagomez said that social distancing will still be closely monitored. He is confident, though that the CNMI has a “strong community” who will help diminish the spread of the virus and will adhere to all protocols.
When asked about the checking of temperatures, Villagomez says it won’t be a bad idea because it’s a preventative measure toward identifying a potential symptomatic person, adding that it’s better to implement protective measures than to not have any measures at all.
Another outdoor setting is the annual Trunk or Treat Halloween event. Villagomez stated that because you’re dealing with children with masks and costumes, you cannot identify if they are wearing a mask underneath their Halloween mask but acknowledged that this too is an outdoor activity.
As for residential areas participating in trick or treating, Villagomez says that, as long as residents are following social distancing, ensuring that there are no more than 25 people in one setting, and enforce the wearing of face masks, it will be okay.
Among adults, a usual night out on Halloween usually consists of dressing up and going on a night out in bars. However, with COVID-19 protocols in place, this year will be different. Villagomez said that a team will be going around and ensuring that bars are adhering to the protocols. Bars that are not adhering to the protocols will be shut down on the spot.
According to Villagomez, the team isn’t going around just because it’s Halloween but because it’s a regular patrol duty as part of the mission of the Department of Public Safety, Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco Control, and Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
Villagomez stated that because they have shut down a few bars already, there’s been a fair warning and no one will be treated any differently.
“We trust our community. We want to work with our community and, in return, this community is showing all the success that we are in,” said Villagomez. “We are not here to suffocate you in regards to your life, your daily activities, and your family commitments…but at the same time, we would like to ask for favorable support to get us to the next phase of this pandemic.”