Students start planning for Halloween weekend as Austin-Travis County moves to Stage 3 COVID-19 guidelines

Sophie Ryland

With Halloween less than two weeks away, some COVID-19 experts recommend those going to Halloween celebrations take necessary precautions to help decrease the spread of the virus. 

Maureen Johnson-León, a data equity specialist with the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, said it is important to take precautions to ensure the COVID-19 case data continues to trend downward. Vaccination offers protection against severe illness and possible hospitalization, but it should go with other precautions such as masking and testing. Students who plan to go to large gatherings should get tested before and after to better protect their community, Johnson-León said. 

University Health Services expanded proactive community testing in late September with more walk-ups available at roving testing sites, according to previous reporting from The Daily Texan. 

“My understanding is that there are going to be gatherings, large and small, and everybody has a different risk tolerance,” Johnson-León said. “If you have a choice, choose a smaller gathering, instead of a larger (one); if you have a choice between indoors versus outdoors, outdoors is safer.”

The median projections for cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations show a continued steady decline over the next month through Halloween weekend, according to UT’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Austin-Travis County moved to Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines on Oct. 12, which recommend vaccinated individuals wear masks at indoor events, but do not need to at outdoor ones. Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals should wear a mask at all indoor and outdoor activities.

Biochemistry junior Myrah Sheriff, who is an officer in her sorority, said for Halloween her sorority is requiring everyone to show a vaccine card or a negative test for their event. She said most of the organization is vaccinated based on data they collected in September, but she wants them to continue to be vigilant with the rise of the delta variant.

Sheriff said the sorority usually has COVID-19 testing available in front of the sorority house, so anyone who wants to get tested before or after the event is able to.

Nursing sophomore Yan Ru Wong said students should wear masks in group settings, but she does not think they will for Halloween. Wong said even though most college students would be fine if they contract COVID-19, they never know how COVID-19 will affect their bodies.

“If it’s something that you’re worried about, there’s no harm in taking a test, especially because they’re free for UT students,” Wong said.