EASTERN ONTARIO — Trick-or-treating is too frightening for Halloween this pandemic year.
Citing the “recent significant increase” in COVID-19 cases, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit is “strongly recommending” against the annual door-to-door candy-collection activity and other “traditional ways of celebrating Halloween.” (However, the EOHU has nonetheless issued trick-or-treating guidelines for those who press ahead anyway; see further below).
“I understand that kids as well as many adults look forward to Halloween at this time of year, but we want everyone to remain safe,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health, in a statement issued by the EOHU this evening. “With COVID-19 cases on the rise, this means finding ways to celebrate that don’t increase the risk of spreading the virus.”
The EOHU asserts that “going out trick-or-treating or handing out treats increases your family’s risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 because it exposes you to many other people.”
Organized “community/municipal Halloween events where many people gather” should be cancelled as well, according to the EOHU, again noting the risk of catching the virus.
Residents are instead being pointed to “safer alternatives” for marking the 31st — such as online or virtual Halloween parties where participants stay home.
“It’s not going to be the same Halloween as usual, I can tell you that,” says Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health in his Oct. 16 update.
The EOHU’s recommendations
• Do not host or attend any in-person Halloween parties or gatherings with individuals outside of your immediate household. Instead, celebrate at home with the people you live with, or with your chosen social support person(s) if you live alone.
• Launch a virtual competition with your neighbours for the best outdoor Halloween decorations.
• Organize a virtual costume party online with friends.
• Watch a scary movie with the people you live with or your chosen social support person(s) if you live alone. There are plenty of Halloween movies that will get you in the spirit. If the weather permits, set it up in your backyard.
• Plan a special evening looking at the rare Halloween full moon (last time was Oct. 31, 2001).
• Set up an at-home candy treasure hunt for your children.
• Eat a fun and spooky meal you have made with those you live with or that chosen social support person(s) if you live alone.
• Save the pumpkin carving for Halloween night so you have another activity to look forward to.
• Enjoy some other fall activities that day and evening, like an outdoor corn maze or apple picking.
Don’t trick-or-treat, but if you do …
“This year, it is strongly recommended not to trick-or-treat or hand out treats,” reiterates the EOHU. “If you do choose to trick-or treat, follow the measures below to do it more safely. Note that if the local situation changes, there is the possibility that these Halloween recommendations may change.”
• Choose a costume that allows you/your child to wear a non-medical mask. A costume mask isn’t a substitute for a face covering and shouldn’t be worn over a face covering as it may make it difficult to breathe.
• Only trick-or-treat outside. Stay in your own community, away from busy areas.
• Go only with members of your direct household. Keep at least 2 metres distance from others.
• Where possible, knock instead of pushing doorbells, or keep 2 metres from the door or porch and call “trick or treat”.
• Bring hand sanitizer, and use it before handling candy, or after touching high-touch surfaces like doorbells, doors, or railings.
• If you’re handing out treats, keep at least 2 metres distance from trick-or-treaters and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. Make candy bundles/bags using prepackaged (not homemade) treats. Space them out on a table or blanket outside for trick-or-treaters to take, or find other creative ways to hand out treats while maintaining a distance.
• Finally, if you or your children are sick or self-isolating, don’t go out trick-or-treating and don’t hand out treats. Stay at home and turn off your porch light to discourage trick-or-treaters from coming to the door.