As Halloween falls on a Saturday, both the East Carolina University Police Department (ECU PD) and Greenville Police Department (GPD) continue to work to enforce safety precautions and organized protocols they conduct within the days which lead up to, and the weekend’s, festivities.
Chris Sutton, a captain for the ECU PD, said a large part of the college experience is the social aspect which has been affected by the ongoing pandemic. He said there is a concern with large gatherings that may take place during the weekend since some crowded gatherings have already occurred since the start of the semester.
“There's some concern that our students will get together and will mix and mingle with not just their peers here at ECU, but then also individuals from out of town from particularly some of our sister institutions,” Sutton said. “Halloween falls on a Saturday and so that tends to be an even busier time so we want to be able to manage it, keep the numbers in the parties down and hopefully be able to control the spread and not see a lot of outbreaks occur.”
There will be additional patrol officers patrolling the ECU and Greenville communities starting on Oct. 30 through Nov. 1., according to Sutton. As for now, he said 25 people are allowed to be indoors at once and 50 outside.
Since the beginning of this fiscal year, which began on Aug. 10, Sutton said the ECU PD has responded to calls as well as complaints from students and citizens to help diffuse some large gatherings which have taken place.
“It's possible that there could be some enforcement action that takes place whether it's a referral through the student rights and responsibilities office or some type of a citation which could be a charge for violation of the executive order which is a misdemeanor,” Sutton said. “We could issue city code ordinances that results in more of a fine then a criminal charge so there's some different options that we have that we would use.”
If a first time violation occurs or if the number of individuals doesn’t exceed the state orders, then it is less likely a charge will be issued, according to Sutton. He said although he wants ECU students to enjoy this experience of Halloween, it's important that everyone follows the necessary precautions to keep COVID-19 case numbers down.
There will not be a Halloween event taking place downtown this year, Kristen Hunter, public information officer for GPD, said. An organized event, where students and other individuals around the community come, usually takes place every Halloween each year but COVID-19 has altered this year's festivities, she said.
The streets, which are typically blocked off, will remain open this weekend, according to Hunter, and the “festival atmosphere” that everyone is used to will be totally changed. Bars will remain at Phase 3, she said, and outdoor capacity is reduced 30% capacity or 100 guests, whichever number is less.
“All the indoor seating areas must be closed and patrons have to wear a face mask when they're not actively drinking or eating and the bars just as they have been have to be closed. Alcohol sales shut down at 11 (p.m.) so that certainly changes the downtown atmosphere,” Hunter said.
GPD doesn’t want to take away students’ Halloween fun, according to Hunter, but the department does want everyone to stay safe and healthy. She said if individuals actively follow guidelines, everyone can get back to a sense of normalcy.
Trick-or-treating will still take place this year, according to the City of Greenville’s website, and officers will be located in Greenville neighborhoods the night of Halloween. Individuals should wash their hands before giving out treats, there should be individually wrapped bags of treats and people, who have to wear masks, should give treats outdoors, the website said. For people who dress up, a mask should be a part of their costume.
Freshman public health major Natalia Figueroa-Bernal said she is concerned about the parties that are likely to occur at ECU during Halloween weekend. Since Halloween is a major holiday, Figueroa-Bernal said she expects families and friends to do fun activities.
“The COVID-19 cases will only increase if we continue to gather in groups. I am worried about individuals who are elderly and have serious medical conditions. I truly hope ECU and Greenville take extra precautions during the Halloween weekend,” Figueroa-Bernal said.
ECU will have people patrol the residence hall lobbies, according to Figueroa-Bernal. She said she hopes ECU continues to enforce social distancing and sanitation around the halls during the weekend.
Figueroa-Bernal said she hopes ECU students continue to take the necessary safety precautions. As for the Greenville police, she said she would want extra patrolling to help interrupt large gatherings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Just because you may not have COVID-19 right now, it does not mean you will never get it. You could spread the virus and not know it,” Figueroa-Bernal said. “Please worry about your health and the health of those around you. We all want to return to normal. To do that, we must take safety precautions. Please wear your mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer.”