No trick or treating! Ottawa's top doc says Halloween will not be normal due to COVID-19

Ottawa's top doctor suggests you will not be seeing ghosts and goblins roaming the streets of Ottawa trick-or-treating this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy-two days before Halloween, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches tells CTV Morning Live it will not be business as usual on Oct. 31.

"I don't think so. If normal means going door-to-door and touching things that other people have touched. I think we're going to have to be creative," said Dr. Etches on Thursday morning.

"People love to dress up; those aspects of Halloween are very much doable. It's the coming into close contact with others we'll need to rethink."

CTV Morning Live host Annette Goerner asked Dr. Etches what she would suggest families do to create a safe Halloween for the kids.

"This is the first time I've been asked about the end of October, but I think celebrating the aspects again that are fun for children. Children are really looking forward to getting back with friends. The dress-up aspects, being able to take photos, share photos," said Dr. Etches.

"If it comes to the access to sweets, and that's a big part I know for children, there may be other ways to do it where they don't have to be putting their hand into a bowl that other children are touching as well."

University of Ottawa epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan told CTVNews.ca earlier this week that if the virus caseload is higher in October than where it is now, trick-or-treating is "probably not a great idea."

When asked by host Annette Goerner about the risk of dropping a piece of candy into a trick-or-treat bag with as little contact as possible, Dr. Etches said it's important to limit potential exposure as much as possible.

"That risk is low. It's low compared to living in a household or coming into close contact inside with somebody who is infected with COVID," said Dr. Etches.

"It's the close contact indoors that's the most high risk for transmission, but we're trying to be as careful as we can. If we don't have to cause potential exposures."

The medical officer of health added she is optimistic Ottawa residents will find new and fun ways to celebrate Halloween with children.

"This has been a great time of adaptation; I don't have all the answers. We've seen people in Ottawa change the way they're going about their days, and I think this is another one where we'll have to look at it and be creative."

School vs. Halloween risk of COVID exposure

Halloween will be eight weeks after kids return to class for the new school year.

Dr. Etches was asked on CTV Morning Live that with kids returning to school this fall, why should Halloween be altered to avoid COVID-19 transmission.

"There's a big difference. In a school environment, where first of all we're screening people to make sure that people don't go in when they're sick and then there are layers of protection in the school environment where they are trying to keep children apart with distance," said Dr. Etches.

"They're trying to keep people in small groups so that there's a cohort … you know who you need to follow up with if there's an exposure. Children are wearing masks, and teachers and staff. There's a lot of promotion of hand-hygiene. So, this is not just back-to-school as usual."