In 2019, days before Halloween weekend began for the University of Wisconsin campus, Chancellor Rebecca Blank made a statement.

“Although your Halloween celebration will likely be unique in many ways, one thing that should remain constant is keeping yourself and other Badgers safe during what can be a chaotic time, and being a responsible and respectful community member,” she said in this statement.

While this statement may have been released a year ago, it’s easy to argue her message’s point is more applicable than ever before.

In the midst of a pandemic, Halloween in Dane County will certainly be unique. In the past, UW students have known the holiday weekend to be marked by an array of social festivities ranging from Freakfest on State Street to off-campus parties, but these festivities only pose a threat to the campus community if carried-out this upcoming weekend.

Following the rapid spike of positive COVID-19 cases in early to mid-September which warranted a mandatory on-campus and off-campus two-week lockdown of campus facilities and dormitories, UW is just finally beginning to come out on the other side. Only last week, UW testing facilities have reported only around 110 new positive COVID cases in relation to students and teachers — an immense contrast to the 290 positive cases reported in only one day on Sept. 9.

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While the rate of COVID-19 cases at UW decreases, the same can not be said for Dane County and Wisconsin as a whole. Only seven hours ago, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services stated, “Wisconsin is reporting 5k+ new COVID-19 cases [in only] today.”

This was followed up by an urgent message from Gov. Tony Evers who is urging Wisconsinites to stop the spread, stating, “There’s no way to sugarcoat it — we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbors and the people you care about.”

So, while we as UW students may feel it is safe to celebrate Halloween like the years before us, it’s vital we remember what’s at stake during this pandemic — the safety and security of not only the UW community, but the Dane County community as well.

While Halloweekend in Madison may not be the same as the years before, it’s our responsibility as a community on campus to set a standard of respect for a health crisis that is tearing its way through both the country and the state.

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Luckily, there are ways to adapt. While health experts plead for individuals to stay away from the crowded doorsteps of homes, the spooky haunted houses, and, most importantly, the overpacked house parties, they find there are many ways to stay safe while still joining in on the celebration.

Instead of the late-night Freakfest activities and movement from one off-campus party to another, students can celebrate by:

  • Throwing a small get-together with the roomies and close friends, all while, simultaneously, following the campus and Dane County COVID-19 guidelines. 
  • Carving Pumpkins and re-watching the entire Harry Potter series. 
  • Holding a scary movie marathon in the apartment.
  • Throwing a costume party via Zoom with all friends involved.

While the list may seem short, there are more than enough ways to celebrate this upcoming Halloween weekend.

“There are lots of creative ways to approach this and make this year memorable,” specialist in infectious diseases at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Dr. Colleen S. Kraft told AP News.

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What’s more important than just taking the necessary precautions to responsibly celebrate Halloween is the recognition as a student body of the gravity of the situation at hand. If serious precautions are not taken by both Dane County and at UW then we may face an even worse spike of positive COVID-19 cases than before, reversing all the efforts taken within the past month by the campus to reverse the curve and stop the spread of the virus.

We must urge ourselves, campus and Dane County officials to ramp up the security measures this weekend — including increased on-campus and off-campus monitoring — in order to ensure people do not celebrate dangerously.

As Michigan health officials put it, “The only thing scary about Halloween should be the costumes.”

Kayla Bell ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.