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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By James F. Peltz, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — A Batman bib-and-booties costume for $14.99 caught the eye of Joanna Robles as she searched for something for her months-old son to wear while she holds him as she hands out candy on Halloween.

“His dad is really obsessed with superheroes,” Robles said while strolling through a Spirit Halloween store outside Los Angeles.

In the next aisle, 35-year-old Joe Lige said he was browsing for an outfit “on the darker, spookier side” for a Halloween party. “My wife gives me a budget for Halloween and I always exceed it,” he quipped.

They’re among the 157 million Americans expected to celebrate Halloween this year, whether it’s by walking their kids around the block for free candy, carving a pumpkin for the front window or donning a costume for a neighborhood party.

Once mostly the purview of children, Halloween has grown into a major consumer holiday that now includes 18- to 34-year-old millennials and older adults who seize the opportunity for a night of escapism.

“It’s not just for kids trick-or-treating anymore,” said Trisha Lombardo, a spokeswoman for Spirit Halloween, which has 1,150 temporary stores that operate just for the Halloween season.

Consumers altogether will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year, or an average of $74.34 each, the National Retail Federation estimates based on an annual survey conducted by the research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That’s down from a peak of $8 billion, or $79.82 a consumer, in 2012 but still more than double the Halloween spending of a decade ago.

That spending cuts a huge swath across the retail and entertainment economies, and to some extent the farming industry.

Businesses can’t point to a single reason why consumer interest in Halloween has surged over the last decade but they do cite factors driving its popularity today.

For instance, “the millennials are really into group costumes and activities,” Lombardo said. “They love to do things in groups, whether they’re going as characters in ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Orange Is the New Black,'” and that drives added costume sales and theme-park attendance, she said.

Social media also has fueled the rise in Halloween’s appeal because consumers love sharing information, photos and videos of their Halloween costumes, decorations and night-on-the-town escapades, analysts said.

When people were asked where they look for inspiration for costumes, the websites Facebook and Pinterest each drew 13 percent of the responses, the National Retail Federation said. Nearly one-third of consumers said they looked online overall for Halloween costumes.

“I post stuff after I pick out my outfit,” especially on Facebook and Instagram, said Jessica Medina, 33, as she shopped at the Spirit Halloween store. “I also search online to see what’s out there and my friends post things.”

The impact of social media “has been exponential,” said Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail consultant. “The growth that’s occurred in Halloween spending over the last 10 years has almost mirrored that of the growth in social media.

“It’s more of a social holiday now, with ‘social’ meaning that people not only are enjoying Halloween with one another but sending it out to the world.”
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(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Halloween has grown into a major consumer holiday, with 157 million Americans expected to celebrate this year. (Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.