Often referred to as “Halloweekend,” Halloween weekend is usually one of the biggest and rowdiest celebrations of the year at the University of Massachusetts. This year, however, the University will attempt to ensure that COVID-19 guidelines are followed and large gatherings are prevented. These unique circumstances are leading some students to consider different ways to celebrate the holiday.
Consistent with their semester-long plan to tackle COVID-19 on campus, the University is enforcing rules to deter large groups from gathering this upcoming Halloween weekend, including possible punishments for code of conduct violations.
“Students cited by Amherst Police for gatherings over the limit or including many guests not wearing masks or social distancing will be referred to the Dean of Students Office for a student code of conduct review,” said Mary Dettloff, deputy director of news and media relations, in a statement.
The University saw its largest spike in cases in late September with 28 positive tests in a single day, following an off-campus party that was the source of the outbreak.
With cumulative positive cases now at 159 according to the COVID-19 dashboard, and the University potentially disciplining those who violate the UMass community guidelines, students are being more cautious of having the large and loud celebrations, which are typical during the Halloween season at UMass.
Kassandra Muise, a freshman biology major, said that having a remote semester has led her to have a different freshman experience from what she originally expected. This includes the way that she is celebrating Halloween, which will be spent in her hometown.
She believes that having limited capacity on-campus will be beneficial in keeping students and local residents safe.
“If 60 percent of students were on campus now, Halloweekend would have been crazy and cased a corona outbreak,” said Muise.
Muise also expresses that on-campus and off-campus students can still have a fun Halloween this year while being relatively safe.
“I think a lot of the off-campus people will most likely have parties, if they haven’t started having them,” said Muise. “I’m all for having fun but staying within what is allowed and not putting other people at risk.”
Gov. Charlie Baker announced that the state will not be enforcing strict rules or mandates statewide regarding Halloween this year but hopes each community will make their own decision on how Halloween will operate based on their individual circumstances. Trick-or-treating is expected to continue in Amherst with guidelines released by the town that would “help residents plan for Halloween that is consistent with the best public health and public safety advice,” according to the Town Manager’s Report.
“Off-campus students who are participating in trick-or-treat in Amherst are asked to follow the town’s guidelines for trick-or-treating to make it a safe and fun experience for all,” said Dettloff.
Some of these guidelines include wearing a mask, not attending indoor events and traveling with family members and trusted groups.
Despite the restrictions, other ways to cleebrate Halloween this year remain. The University Programming Council will be hosting Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye on Wednesday at 9 p.m., which can also be streamed Friday Students can also stream Hocus Pocus on the night of Halloween, according to Colette Basiliere, director of internal Aafairs of the University Programming Council.
The University will continue to share safety tips in the days leading up to Halloween.
Saliha Bayrak can be reached at [email protected]