Instead of door-to-door trick-or-treating this Halloween, local health leaders are recommending that Austin residents start new traditions. For example, coronavirus-themed piñatas are proving very popular in 2020.
"What new traditions can you create this weekend?" Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden asked Wednesday morning while showing off her new piñata.
Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said he also intends to substitute trick-or-treating this year with a Halloween-themed piñata.
"I'm a little jealous of your COVID-19 piñata," Escott told Hayden.
But many Austin residents are experiencing pandemic fatigue, APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette acknowledged. For those people determined to party this Halloween, Pichette recommended social distancing—and, indirectly, a mask-themed costume.
"While I don't have a piñata, I do have a mask, so do wear your mask while you're out and about," Pichette said.
Despite COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remaining relatively steady at the local level, Austin Public Health officials worry that exposure during Halloween celebrations could put the city on a dangerous trajectory. Statewide spread has already prompted health experts to predict that COVID-19 cases are likely to grow in Austin.
"This is a call to action for Austin and Travis County," Hayden said. "This can be avoided. We can come together as a community."
Health officials reiterated their same concerns as last week that case spread from Halloween activity could make for a bleak holiday season the rest of the year. Fortunately, local hospitals aren't overwhelmed right now, and there is backup support, if needed.
"We are lucky that our hospital systems have affiliated hospitals throughout Texas and, in some cases across the country, so they do have the ability to surge personnel from other jurisdictions," Escott said. "But we can't all surge at the same time across our major metropolitan cities in Texas."
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