Families in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel, and York Region should skip trick-or-treating this year, the province is now advising. On Oct. 19, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the risk of COVID transmission is just too great in these hotspots, and that “traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate.”
For the rest of the province, health officials recommend staying within your household bubble and only collecting candy outdoors.
Original story follows.
From concerts to weddings to new Timothée Chalamet films, 2020 has been a year of cancellations and postponements. And we’re not in the clear yet. Many Canadians spent Thanksgiving solo or with our bubbles, in the hopes that, as Justin Trudeau said, we will “still have a shot at Christmas.” But with another holiday, Halloween around the corner, is there any chance we can safely celebrate?
It turns out you might not have to save your Tiger King costume for 2021. Here, the answers to your most-pressing Halloween questions.
Is Halloween cancelled? What about trick-or-treating?
That depends on where you live and who you’re asking. On Tuesday, Canada’s top doc Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters that outdoor trick-or-treating can still take place as long as every ghoul and goblin (and their parents) follow safety rules: Practise physical distancing, carry pumpkin-scented hand sanitizer, and wear face masks. And by masks, she means the ones used to protect against the novel coronavirus — not your old-school Freddy Krueger one.
While Tam has given trick-or-treating the green light, other experts say that it poses too much of a health risk. Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious diseases pediatrician and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told Refinery29 that if you live in a COVID-19 hotspot, like Toronto, Montreal, or Edmonton, you’re safer sitting this year out. Kids are already interacting with classmates, parents, and grandparents, and the more you can control who else they come in contact with, the better. “In places where there’s a resurgence, I just think it’s not safe. It’s not a wise thing to do.”
Your decision may also depend on who you’re with. While one of the best parts of Halloween is when you’re finally old enough to go out with your friends and not your parents (lame), groups and mixing households are a no-no in 2020. It’s also advisable to stick close to home (i.e. don’t go to that fancy neighbourhood that gives out the full-size chocolate bars) and avoid crowds, says Thomas Tenkate, an associate professor of public health at Ryerson University. Again, the key messaging here is: the less contact with others, the better.
Yah, still not comfortable.
We get it. For families in COVID-19 hotspots or who think trick-or-treating during a pandemic is too risky, Banerji suggests celebrating Halloween at home and finding ways to make the day special. Costumes can still be worn and chocolate tastes just as good on the sofa as it does on the street. “Parents can buy kids treats and then they can watch horror movies,” she says. “They can have a ‘scary night’ with a candlelight dinner and pumpkins. There’s many creative things you can do.”
Should I sanitize my kids’ Halloween candy before they eat it?
First, throw away any treats that are not individually wrapped as well as any boxes of raisins. (No one wants raisins even if they’re safe.) Then, grab yourself a PSL and go through everything in their haul. While B.C.’s public health agency says you don’t need to clean every treat, Tenkate says parents who are concerned can wipe down chocolate and candy packages with a disinfectant, like Lysol wipes, before kids get into them, just to be safe. (Note: do NOT put a cleaning product on a treat itself! It’s very dangerous to ingest chemicals.) Children should also wash their hands as soon as they come home from trick-or-treating or before they eat anything.
What’s this I’m hearing about trick-or-treating with a hockey stick?
This advice, also from Tam, is more for people doling out candy — which should be pre-packaged, of course. “There’s some really interesting ideas where people are handing out treats at the end of a hockey stick or something, using a pool noodle to tell your kids how far they should be standing apart from each other,” Tam said this week.
Tenkate has heard of similar techniques — people putting candy on a tray for each trick-or-treater, or setting up a slide-type device so that the Kit Kats et al make their own way into kids’ hands without touching yours. Alberta’s health agency suggests using tongs to hand out pre-packaged candy, giving out candy from your driveway or front lawn (if you can), or making treat bags and spacing them out on an outdoor table. It’s best not to leave out self-serve bowls of candy or to have kids reach into a box to get their own treats. Communal bowls are not COVID-friendly (same with doorbells — avoid them!), and they also pretty much guarantee your stash will be gone in five minutes.
All COVID-19 prevention measures still apply when handing out candy: Keep your distance from others, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.
I’m too worried to hand out candy this year. What can I do so I’m not a Halloween Grinch?
The traditional way to signal your house isn’t open to sugar-hungry kiddos is to turn off porch lights and keep your door shut. While this method is still acceptable, it’s a better idea to make it super obvious that you’re not participating in trick-or-treating during the pandemic, Tenkate says. That way, you won’t risk any unwanted interactions with others, and you seem like less of a jerk. “Put a sign up saying, ‘Happy Halloween, but no candy this year,’” he suggests. “Make it very clear that you’re not involved.”
Should I skip my friend’s annual Monster Mash Halloween party?
Sorry to be a buzzkill, but yes. While provinces and territories have their own size limits on group gatherings, health experts say skipping parties this year is for the best. You can still celebrate with your immediate household, and Halloween is the perfect excuse to scare the living daylights out of your roommates. “With Thanksgiving, the message was: ‘Please, as much as possible, just have your own family.’ And I think that’s the same with Halloween,” Tenkate says.
He suggests throwing a virtual party this year and making up for it next year. “My sense is, by next Thanksgiving we should have a vaccine and I think things will be very different.”
What about hitting up my local haunted house?
There are some haunted houses open across the country with safety measures in place. If you do go to one, don’t scream — even if you’re scared. “Screaming… should be avoided as it generates a lot of respiratory droplets which are able to travel further than with normal talking,” Tenkate says.
And it should go without saying that if you’re sick, stay the hell home.
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