Trick-or-treaters get masks, sanitizer with candy this year at Halloween block party in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI — Trick-or-Treaters decked-out in costumes and face paint trudged down Krom Avenue in Kalamazoo on Saturday, where they were greeted by volunteers offering masks and hand sanitizer before passing out the treats.

While this year’s events looked a little different, the pandemic didn’t stop Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. from hosting its annual Halloween block party in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood Saturday, Oct. 31.

Hundreds of kids and their parents walked through an aisle of volunteers who passed out handfuls of candy, before leaving the block party stationed at Krom Avenue and Herbert Street, to continue their night knocking on the doors of houses on North Burdick Street.

With many homeowners deciding not to give out candy over concerns it could result in the spread of the coronavirus, Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. said it wanted to offer kids a fun and safe Halloween. The organization is a nonprofit that provides education and entertainment programs and events for youths and their families. The organizations founder, Charles Parker, has been a longtime advocate for kids in Kalamazoo.

Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. board member and Parker’s niece, TaKarra Dunning, wore colorful face paint while handing out candy to dozens of kids Saturday evening.

“We do this every year for the kids on Halloween, no matter what day of the week it’s on, it’s a tradition that my uncle Charles Parker wants to keep alive,” Dunning said. “We just had to make the adjustment for COVID — we haven’t been able to do much programming that we would usually do, so it’s just nice to be able to get out here on a nice Halloween Day.”

Dunning and others passed out masks and offered squirts of hand sanitizer to parents and their children before they were given candy and treats, while DJ Conscious provided music throughout the two-hour event.

Kalamazoo resident Samantha Drew came to the event on Saturday with her two children who have been attending school virtually this year at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Drew said that finding a few hours of fun for her two children to unwind and release some energy has been a challenge.

“Just yesterday I was like, ‘What are we going to do with these kids?’ I’m just thankful that these guys stepped up and did this thing,” Drew said. “They’ve been cooped up in the house doing online school and it really is hard on the kids.”

Drew wasn’t worried about the spread of the virus at Saturday’s outdoor block party, saying events that take the health and safety of everyone into account are important for her kids. She said safety mitigations should be taken seriously as she wants her kids to be able to safely get back to the district for in-person instruction.

“Safety I believe should be our number one — since we have to wear a mask to keep the disease from spreading, I believe we should all wear it, we all just want to be safe,” Drew said.

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Hartford judge hears testimony on safety of masks in schools as parents seek to block face coverings rule

A Hartford judge heard hours of testimony on the safety and efficacy of masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus Friday as he decides whether to grant an emergency injunction blocking a state requirement that students wear face coverings in schools.

In a daylong hearing on the injunction, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher heard from both those downplaying the effectiveness of masks as well as those who said face coverings do not negatively impact children and slow the spread of the virus.

The hearing came several weeks after a group of parents and the CT Freedom Alliance sued the state’s education department and top officials to lift the requirement that children wear masks in schools out of fear of the harms they pose to children both mentally and physically.

The assertions in the lawsuit are in direct conflict with scientific evidence that shows that mask-wearing slows the spread of COVID-19. Lawyers for the state have argued there is no evidence to support the claim that masks are dangerous and that in fact masks are protecting students as they attend in-person classes.

Quick to send students home for virtual learning in the spring, Connecticut education officials outlined extensive measures to safely return students to school this fall. Key among those measures was a requirement that students and staff wear masks in school.

Moukawsher set Friday’s hearing to get testimony from two expert witnesses called by the plaintiffs, as well as the state’s witnesses, before ruling on the request for an injunction. The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case, which Moukawsher will address after the injunction.

Lawyers for the parents and CT Freedom Alliance first called on a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist, who said that masks can inhibit development, cause stress and led to other complications for children.

“I am greatly concerned by what I am seeing … children who are forced to wear masks in a school settings as well as outside the school settings are in imminent harm,” said Dr. Mark McDonald. McDonald also noted that the risk of oxygen deprivation can led to “permanent neurological damage in children, which we will not be able to address because the window will have passed.”

The state questioned McDonald’s beliefs in masks and the government response to the pandemic. McDonald said he believes that a healthy person confers no benefits to others when wearing a mask.

The plaintiff’s second witness, Knut Whittkowski, a New York-based epidemiologist with 35 years in the field, said he reviewed scores of studies and could not find evidence that masks were effective outside a health care setting.

“I went through all the literature I could find, and all the literature I was presented and I could not find convincing evidence on the effectiveness of surgery masks or bandannas or other masks worn in non-health care settings in general,” Whittkowski said. “And in particular, I couldn’t find evidence for the effectiveness of mask wearing by children.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

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