Halloween was scary

Will Halloween be Maui’s Sturgis? If so, island COVID-19 cases will be surging around Thanksgiving Day.

Last Saturday, Lahaina was a ghost town compared to the usual Halloween party for 25,000 revelers on Front Street, but there was still a mix of visitors and locals walking the sidewalks and lining up in front of the few open restaurants and bars.

By unofficial observation, only about 70 percent were using protective masks. Inside one busy bar where loud music was playing and patrons had to shout to be heard, nobody but the staff was seen wearing masks. That was not an isolated incident. We’ve also heard stories of Halloween parties across the island where protective masks were the exception not the rule. Talk about scary.

Officials have advised us to downsize traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. Let’s hope party-heavy Halloween didn’t slip under the holiday radar. Falling on a Saturday, under a full moon, we should have known better.

A big hint came a night earlier when Seabury Hall’s Hall-Oween drive-thru fundraiser for the Maui Food Bank caused a massive Upcountry traffic jam. Starved for Halloween entertainment, so many people descended upon the Olinda campus they snarled country roads for miles in every direction.

Stir this pent-up demand for fun and escapism into an easing of precautions and you create textbook opportunities for virus spread. All that’s needed is one infectious person to create a cycle that blooms into a superspreader. A patron infects the bartender who then infects her co-workers, kids and neighbors. An asymptomatic couple cavorts on a party’s crowded dance floor, unaware they are shedding the virus like gangbusters.

Following exposure, it takes about five days to become infectious and another two to feel symptoms. After five cycles, or about 25 days, events like yodeling contests or the Sturgis motorcycle rally can be shown to have caused enough cases to be declared a superspreader.

Yes, we are weary of the privations caused by COVID-19. We miss our friends and the simple freedom to gather and make merry. Parents want to create happy memories for their children. Visitors long to have a normal vacation.

These desires must be weighed against the need to protect the health of our community. It is also about keeping the island economy up and running. Nobody wants another lockdown or to go back to 14-day quarantines for air travelers, but nobody wants to get sick and die either.

Not knowing when the pandemic will end is unsettling for all of us. Are we in the homestretch or still just getting started? Nobody seems to know for sure, but experts continue to preach patience. In light of the surges raging around the globe, if we’re not careful, it could be a bumpy ride to the finish.  


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