The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday May 31st

All tricks, no treat: H1N1 concerns not valid argument for smaller event

Chapel Hill shouldn’t further limit the size of Halloween.

The town’s Halloween celebrations are the stuff of legends (and for some, bad hangovers).

Before last year, crowds were estimated at upwards of 80,000 people, consisting of UNC students, town residents and out-of-towners.

But those crowds weren’t exactly manageable. Fights, alcohol poisonings and vandalism were just a few of the problems Chapel Hill and various local police forces faced.

Last year, a curfew and a Homegrown Halloween campaign made the holiday more of a local affair. About 35,000 people showed up, and it was largely considered a success.

But now the town and Chapel Hill police want to limit the celebration to about 10,000 to 15,000 visitors.

One of this year’s big concerns is that H1N1 could easily spread through the masses should a big Halloween bash occur. The logic is that a reduced crowd equals reduced chances to catch the flu.


Dr. David Weber with UNC Hospitals’ Division of Infectious Diseases says that’s not the case.

He said that going to church and attending classes are just as likely to spread H1N1. In fact, Weber said, lowering the attendance to 10,000 “wouldn’t make any difference” in lowering the risk of spreading H1N1.

The key factor is infected people being within a few feet of others. The total number of people has little to do with anything.

And if officials are going to worry about large groups of people in one area for a few hours, then the next step should be pressuring the University to cancel all home sporting events and lecture hall classes, not to mention dormitories.

As far as H1N1 goes, all anyone can hope for is that infected people won’t be so selfish that they’ll choose to make other people miserable just so they can have a fun night.

Aside from H1N1, there’s the age-old concern of sheer numbers leading to trouble. But the goal this year is going a little overboard. The 15,000 person figure doesn’t even cover UNC’s undergraduate population. In essence, it would be a local party that not all locals could attend.

Sure, some of the reasons for limiting the crowd’s size are sensible. Last year’s smaller crowd resulted in fewer fights and alcohol-related emergencies.

Crowd management is the major concern for police. The reason they want even fewer people this year is that officials think the smaller number is what the combined Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Department of Public Safety, Durham and Orange County forces can handle.

But Halloween is a staple to UNC students. Trying to limit it to 15,000 people just isn’t realistic — or fair — to students.

The bottom line is that Halloween should go on as it did last year.


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