Saturday, October 24, 2020

Sparta aldermen debate trick-or-treating

With the number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin making national news and the virus on the uptick in Monroe County, Sparta Alderman Bruce Humphrey questioned at Wednesday’s council meeting the practicality of holding trick-or-treating in the city this year.

Humphrey said he and his wife have enjoyed hosting trick-or-treaters at their house for the past 37 years but this year is different.

He pointed to the COVID statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Health , which reported a record-breaking number of single-day cases, deaths and hospitalizations on Tuesday with the average daily new cases jumping to 2,727, four times higher than just a month ago. Also on Tuesday, the Monroe County Health Department reported 38 new cases in the county.

“So there is community spread,” he said, adding the Center for Disease Control (CDC) along with the state and county health departments have recommended against traditional trick-or-treating.

Humphrey proposed suspending the tradition in light of those facts, but he was heavily outnumbered. 

Two audience members, Pat McKenna and Steph Savall, argued to allow trick-or-treating in the city. Both said they are safe and responsible citizens, masking up while at work and in public, but questioned the effect disallowing the tradition would have on children.

McKenna said households and parents have the choice if they want to hand out candy or have their children participate in trick-or-treating, noting that school and most other activities have already been taken from kids.

He said his eight-year-old grandson has spent the last several months with his grandmother and three-year-old brother.

“Is that healthy?” he questioned, “We’re setting our kids up for failure out of fear.”

McKenna suggested the activities children are being deprived of during the pandemic are more essential to their development than many of the businesses kept open as essential services.

He said the council should focus on how trick-or-treating can be done safely and referred to Tomah, which held a social-distance parade and fireworks on the Fourth of July while Sparta cancelled its celebration.

“Their leaders found a solution,” he said. “Cancelling life is not a solution.”

Savall said her children have been deprived of almost all activities, including, the swimming pool, summer youth athletics and in-person school, while city-wide rummage sales and adult sports were allowed.

“It should be up to the parents if we want our kids to go trick-or-treating,” she said, adding she’s aware of the rise in COVID cases – “But we also have to think about kids and give them something.”

Mayor Kristen Gust said a number of city residents have told her they are going to be participating in trick-or-treating whether the city allows it or not. “There will be people who chose to participate and people who chose not to,” she said.

Still, Humphrey was adamant about his position. “The risk is high right now and this is compounding the risk.”

Alderman Kevin Riley questioned the council’s authority in the matter. “I don’t think we have any right to legislate it,” he said.

Alderman Kevin Brueggeman said he was 100% for allowing trick-or-treating, while Alderman Ed Lukasek agreed that the decision should be left up to parents.

Gust suggested putting out recommendations, including only trick-or-treat with members your household, both trick-or-treaters and those handing out candy wear face masks, adhere to social distancing guidelines, use hand sanitizer often, avoid congregating at door steps or front porches and don’t eat candy while trick-or-treating.

Alderman Josh Lydon made a motion to allow the mayor to set the time and date for trick-or-treating, which passed 7-1 with Humphrey casting the lone no vote.

Gust set the trick-or treating time from 4-7 p.m. on Oct. 31.

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