Scary sights on Sixth Street this Halloween as crowds failed to follow social distancing

Most+nights+during+the+pandemic%2C+Austin%27s+Sixth+Street+has+had+far+less+crowds.+On+Halloween+night%2C+the+crowds+came+out%2C+and+while+they+wore+masks%2C+failed+to+social+distance.+

Jim Nix/ Flickr

Most nights during the pandemic, Austin’s Sixth Street has had far less crowds. On Halloween night, the crowds came out, and while they wore masks, failed to social distance.

On Halloween night this year, things were expected to look different. For weeks leading up to the notoriously party heavy holiday, celebrators were encouraged to stay home and not go out to places like bars and clubs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, it was advised that the best course of action would be to stay in to further reduce the spread of the virus.

On the streets of Austin, however, it was a completely different story. 

Sixth Street, a popular destination for college students that contains multiple bars up and down its walkways, was packed full of thousands of Halloween patrons. Though many wore masks, photos from the night show that few were practicing social distancing. 

Public health officials are worried that the consequences of this night will result in another surge that could take months to recover from. Other college students that refrained from going out on Halloween are worried about the same thing. 

Ellie Kutschbach is a St. Edward’s senior and has been working at Buckshot, a local bar located on Sixth Street, for little over a year now. Having reopened briefly back in May and then again in September, the scene on Halloween night was more than they were expecting.

“It was very packed. It almost looked like a normal night before the pandemic and I did see a lot of college kids. We started doing cover charges because we couldn’t control the amount of people that wanted to come in. The lines for almost every bar were all the way to the other side of the street,” Kutschbach said. 

Despite the precautions that bars are trying to implement, such as requiring masks to enter and trying to limit the amount of people who are in the space at any given time, there is still a difficulty in enforcing these rules.

“It’s hard for me to get them to wear masks in general, just even at the bar, but then they walk away and they take the mask off and they’re walking around so many people,” Kutschbach said. 

Though Travis County did elect to reopen bars after Gov. Greg Abott allowed them to, many bars have reopened as operating restaurants instead. 

Many residents of Austin believe there is a fine balance between shutting everything down and completely reopening everything.

“I think there should be some social activities; however, bars and clubs are pushing it. Pandemic fatigue is really setting in and in desperation, businesses will start to take more and more risks,” Sean Svoboda, a St. Edward’s alumni, said.

It is too early to determine if Halloween will cause a major upsurge in COVID-19 cases. Residents of Travis County should continue to check in with their public health website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for accurate updates.