The city’s annual “Trail of Treats” is canceled for a second year in a row, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Public Events Manager Tim Ross said Thursday that the event, which had been scheduled for downtown on Oct. 28, had to be canceled because the event predominately draws children under the age of 12, a group that is ineligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
During a typical Trail of Treats “there are thousands and thousands of kids slam-packed into the downtown area,” Ross said.
At other downtown events, such as the Owensboro Air Show, “there are areas you could go and not be crowded on top of people,” Ross said. But the Trail of Treats in held in a more compact area of downtown.
“You can’t participate (in the Trail of Treats) without being in a dense, crowded area for an extended period of time,” Ross said.
Assistant City Manager Lelan Hancock said participation among the businesses and organizations that hand out treats was expected to be cut in half because of the pandemic.
“Those decisions are always difficult, but a lot of the participants we typically had aren’t participating,” said Hancock, adding that “more than half” of the regular businesses and groups had already decided to opt out this year.
Mayor Tom Watson said he and city commissioners weren’t consulted on the decision to cancel the event.
“I’m not opposed to shutting it down .. but it was not the elected officials” who canceled the event, Watson said. “It was not an elected official’s call. It was the (city) staff’s call.”
Clay Horton, director of the Green River District Health Department, said children are susceptible to COVID-19.
According to health department statistics, there have been 10,328 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 since the surge driven by the Delta variant began on Aug. 1. Of those cases, 2,826, or 27%, were people under the age of 18. Eleven%, or 1,166 cases, where in children under the age of 12, according to health department data.
“We know young people have better outcomes, but I wouldn’t say the risk is low,” Horton said. “We are seeing more and more kids that are having a tough time of it.”
While only a small number of children who contract COVID-19 may have severe cases, “a small percentage of a big number is a lot of bad outcomes,” Horton said. “I would encourage parents to be cautious until vaccines are available to that age group.”
Halloween trick or treating on Oct. 31 is not an event the city can cancel. A press release says people who trick or treat on Halloween should wash their hands before eating any treats and should maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
People passing out treats should only used prepackaged ones, the press release says. Horton said he would advise people to trick or treat only among people they know and to use face masks.
“You want to avoid crowds and close contact with people you don’t know, especially if you don’t know their vaccination status,” Horton said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse