Coronavirus puts a hex on Halloween at some US bases in Germany
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 17, 2020
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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — From creepy headstones to spider webs in front yards, houses on this U.S. Air Force base are decked out for Halloween, ready for the hordes of trick-or-treaters who usually roam the streets on Oct. 31.
Not this year, though: The coronavirus has upended many Halloween traditions.
Ramstein base officials said Thursday on Facebook that door-to-door trick-or-treating will be prohibited in family housing “in order to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
The announcement came as the number of new coronavirus infections in Germany rose by 7,334 on Friday, the highest one-day rise since the start of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers traditional trick-or-treating to be a high-risk activity for spreading the coronavirus. Among other Halloween activities that the CDC advises against are attending crowded costume parties held indoors, going to a haunted house where people may be screaming, and going on hayrides or tractor rides with people from different households.
But trick-or-treating is the Halloween sweet spot for many children. This year, though, they’ll have to settle for alternate activities being offered on some U.S. military bases in Germany, such as a socially distanced drive-in movie and Halloween-themed bowling night at Spangdahlem Air Base.
Spangdahlem is in a county designated as high-risk for the virus, but the base has not seen a spike in cases, Col. David Epperson, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, said during a virtual town hall Thursday. Leadership will make a “game-time” decision on whether or not to allow trick-or-treating, he said.
Ramstein’s force support squadron is planning a parade in family housing on Halloween with “masked COVID-safe caped crusaders” distributing candy, the base said Friday.
At Baumholder, a final decision on door-to-door trick-or-treating is expected next week, said Stefan Alford, spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz.
Trick-or-treating will only be allowed on-post for Defense Department ID card holders at the Army garrisons in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. Stuttgart has also banned candy distribution in stairwells and garages and directed that treats be set out on tables for children to grab and go, while trick-or-treaters will be limited to groups of 10 in Wiesbaden housing areas, and only store-bought, packaged treats may be handed out.
The cities of Stuttgart and Wiesbaden, and rural Birkenfeld county, which Baumholder is in, are all at Germany’s highest health threat level for coronavirus.
U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria has banned trick-or-treating for all garrison members but units can hand out candy in open spaces with proper distancing, sanitation stations and a way of keeping track of participants in case contact tracing becomes necessary.
“We’re going to make do with what we have,” Air Force spouse and mother of three Melissa Garvin said, with some resignation.
But at least her kids can wear their costumes, she added.
Immanuel Johnson contributed to this story.
A fake spiderweb stretches across a garden on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 16, 2020. Many houses on base are already decked out for Halloween but there will be no trick-or-treaters this year after the Air Force announced that trick-or-treating at family housing on base is prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
JENNIFER H. SVAN/STARS AND STRIPES