Tam: Trick-or-treating can still happen -- depending on local rules

COVID-19 does not have to bar us from trick-or-treating this year, according to Canada’s top doctor, as long as we follow health guidelines.

Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that it’s all about “finding a balance” this Halloween.

She said most public health leaders agree that “trying to provide some degree of normality, even though it is actually different from any other year,” is important in a fall season that has been punctuated by rising case numbers in many regions.

Indoor gatherings or parties to celebrate Halloween are a no-go in a pandemic, but trick-or-treating outside with social distancing should be fine, she said.

She suggested people could pre-package candies or treats and hand those out one by one “so that people are not rummaging in a bowl,” and that parents could bring hand sanitizer for their children.

“There’s some really interesting ideas where people are handing out treats at the end of a hockey stick or something,” she added. “Using a pool noodle to tell your kids how far they should be standing apart from [other people].”

Cloth face masks could even be made out of different fabrics to allow them to be part of a costume, she said.

Tam added that safety tips will be put up on the government’s website sometime before Oct. 31.

But she stressed that not every region of Canada is dealing with the same level of COVID-19, and thus will have different rules and regulations for the spooky season.

“You should listen to your local public health direction because activities are different in different parts of Canada right now,” she said.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control have posted their Halloween guidelines, which ban indoor gatherings and include suggestions such as handing out candy from the bottom of your steps or the curbside, or even making a “candy slide to give more space when handing out candy.”

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said Tuesday in a press briefing that outdoor trick-or-treating in Ontario should be fine in most places.

He encouraged people to still decorate their front lawns for the season, and added that it was important to be careful about how we hand out candy.

“No lingering for long times on stairs,” he said.

He added that plastic Halloween masks do not count as proper facial coverings for COVID-19, so anyone wearing a full Jason mask or a sculpted witch face should still wear a cloth mask underneath.

However, this permissive attitude regarding trick-or-treating doesn’t apply to Toronto, Peel and Ottawa, the “hot zones” in the province, Williams said, adding that Halloween guidelines for these regions should come out in the next few days.

Ontario recorded more than 1,500 new cases of COVID-19 over the last two days. More than 600 were in Toronto, while 294 were from Peel and 235 were from Ottawa.

But some towns in Ontario outside of the hotspots still aren’t taking chances this Halloween.

The Village of Westport, around 55km north of Kingston, Ont., made the decision to cancel door to door trick-or-treating within the community this year.

In a council briefing note on the matter earlier this month, it was noted that the village draws crowds from surrounding regions on Halloween night, with residents reporting they “regularly receive between 175 and 200 tricksters.”

The cancellation was due to the fear of “the rising amount of community transmission,” according to the briefing note.

For those who don’t feel safe hitting the streets for candy, there are still ways to celebrate.

Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley, dubbed “Canada’s Safety Diva” for her work in public safety, said in a press release that parents who don’t “want to be the Grinch that stole Halloween,” can come up with creative ways for their kids to take part in the holiday at home. These could include having a Halloween hunt in their backyard or home, similar to an Easter hunt, or having a Zoom party with friends to show off costumes and pumpkin carvings.

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