‘The Worst Halloween Ever:’ Coloradans Worried About A Coronavirus Spike Change Their Holiday Plans

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Non-COVID masks for sale Sprit Halloween’s seasonal Lone Tree location. Oct. 31, 2020.

At a busy Spirit Halloween store in Douglas County on Saturday afternoon, people wandered around excitedly, shopping for costumes. Rebecca Mills and her teen daughter Hope said they were excited for Halloween to be on a Saturday this year and to get the extra hour from daylight saving time. 

But they had to change their plans. Hope Mills said she will just have about five friends over Saturday night instead.

“A long time ago we planned on having (a get-together) like with family and stuff, but everyone's kind of scared of COVID,” Hope Mills said. 

“No trick or treating,” Rebecca Mills added. “It's the worst Halloween ever.”

A spike in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates have forced several Colorado counties to implement stricter rules, and prompted people to adjust their immediate holiday plans and question future ones. Others have stocked up on food and supplies, reminiscent of the early weeks of the pandemic.

Sprit Halloween's seasonal Lone Tree location. Oct. 31, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Sprit Halloween's seasonal Lone Tree location. Oct. 31, 2020.

Marcos Ramos filled up his gas tank on Saturday afternoon in Centennial. He lives in Douglas County, which has just moved to “Safer at Home Level 2” restrictions. Ramos said he’s not too nervous about another wave of the virus because he’s relatively young and considers himself healthy. But he’s not sure what his holiday plans will look like this year since his parents are part of the at-risk group and live in Illinois.

“I kind of want them to come over here because it could just be us but at the same time, I don't want them to be at risk over here or me giving or being a risk to them when they come over,” Ramos said. “It's still something we're kind of talking about. It might be a year where I have to be separate… I don't want to get them sick or anything.”

Models from Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment predict the state could reach a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations in two weeks if people don’t change their habits. ICU capacity could be maxed out by the start of 2021, or sooner if people have more contacts over the holidays. On Saturday the state reported 2,639 new cases, a new single day record.

More than a dozen counties have implemented stricter rules to slow the spread of the virus. Two — Adams and Denver — are at the second most severe level. The only place they can go from here is a near complete lockdown as the state did in the spring.

Like Ramos, Rebecca Mills said she’s already looking ahead to other holiday plans that will probably need to be cancelled. The Mills’ usually travel or have lots of family over but that won’t happen this year, especially if coronavirus cases continue to rise.  

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Brian Massick spent two hours getting ready for work at Sprit Halloween's seasonal Lone Tree location. Oct. 31, 2020.

Shopping nearby at the Halloween store, Ryan Smith and his partner picked up last minute costumes for a small family get-together at his grandmother’s house. He said he’s getting more nervous because of rising case counts in the state. So he’s being extra vigilant about wearing a facial covering and is trying to avoid large crowds. 

“Just gonna try to slip out of here without having to encounter too many people,” Smith said. “We were at Party City and there was way too many people, so we dipped out real quick and came here and so at least it's a little more wide open here for sure.”

Bernadette Leyba waited outside the store dressed as Esmeralda from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like the others, her Halloween plans are low-key. To help avoid going out, she said she’s stocked up on food and supplies at home. 

“I am guilty,” Leyba said, nervously laughing. “I bought what I needed for the next couple months, just in case COVID spikes, in case the weather gets too bad or in case there's political unrest and it's unsafe.”

She’s concerned about the virus but is more worried about Election Day and if civil unrest follows in the days after.

“We don't know what's going to happen no matter which way the election goes,” Leyba said. “You don't know what, how people are going to respond to it. So given what we've already seen this year, more people are just trying to prepare for anything and everything at this point.”

A busy shopping center off County Line Road in Lone Tree. Oct. 31, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A busy shopping center off County Line Road in Lone Tree. Oct. 31, 2020.

At a King Soopers in Aurora, toilet paper and other paper products were in low supply on the shelves midday Saturday. Robynn Wood had more than a dozen rolls in her cart. 

“I'm starting to get my toilet paper because they're already gone almost so hopefully they let me buy three,” she said. 

She added that she’s frustrated to see that counties seem to be going backward in terms of controlling the coronavirus.

“I’m angry,” she said. “We’re back in this again because people won’t take it seriously and it is serious.”

She said for Thanksgiving, she normally hosts about 30 people, but this year she plans to spend the holiday alone with her husband.

Aaron Anderson, a housekeeper at Extended Stay America in Douglas County, said guests don’t seem to be too worried and business at the hotel hasn’t slowed down. Even though others seem to be experiencing some form of pandemic fatigue, he’s going to stay vigilant.

“I still wear gloves when I'm in a room or trash or whatever, I keep my mask on, I sanitize my hands,” Anderson said. “So it's like ever since COVID came, I've been following the same precautions. Nothing's changed for me.”