How to celebrate Halloween safely during COVID-19

COVID-19 hasn’t cancelled Halloween in Canada – yet.

Some families who don’t feel safe going trick-or-treating are opting for Easter-style scavenger hunts at home. But others will argue that if kids can go to school, they can go trick-or-treating.

Halloween may be the safest annual event to celebrate during the pandemic. It happens largely outdoors and mask wearing is a built-in fail safes.

The week before Ontario brought “modified” Stage 2 lockdown measures in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel was full of mixed messaging from the different levels of government around Thanksgiving.

However, mayors and chairs of the 11 municipals governments are hoping to avoid a repeat by pushing the province to deliver “one clear public health message” by the end of the week around official Halloween protocol.

But with Halloween less than three weeks away, the federal government has already started rolling out advice.

“How do we adapt to the new reality, the new Halloween?” asked Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam during a press conference Tuesday morning.

She acknowledged that sticking with Halloween in Canada to “provide some degree of normality” is a benefit for mental health reasons. But she also cautioned that this year’s Halloween would and should look like no other.

Tam offered tips on Tuesday for Canadians who are willing to venture trick-or-treating without bringing home a case of COVID-19. Before offering her tips for Halloween, Tam asked Canadians to follow guidance from their local governments.

Toronto is in the throes of a second wave, reporting over 300 new COVID-19 cases a day. De Villa was the first public official to insist that Torontonians celebrate Thanksgiving within their own households, even advising those who live alone to log in with their family or friends virtually.

Anyone who is sick or thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should not participate in Halloween.

Here Tam’s tips for celebrating Halloween safely during COVID-19 – assuming staying home and going virtual isn’t the official public health advice in your area.

Tips for Halloween in Canada

  • Pre-packaged treats: There should be no candy apples for Halloween this year. Homes providing treats can pre-package loot style treats to hand out. Don’t present bowls of treats hands to rummage through. Use paper or cloth bags for individual packaging. Avoid plastic, for environmental reasons.
  • Hand out candy and maintain social distance: We have to get creative and maybe have fun with this. You could keep the bagged treats on a table for kids to pick up while you stand back. Or Tam suggested people hand out treats at the end of a hockey stick. She didn’t specify how exactly that would work. You may need to have the hockey stick hold a basket containing the treat. But you get the idea.

People are posting more creative ideas on social media, such as this spooky zipline

And this chute

Or just use a PVC pipe with no frills. The kids just want candy. Here are a few more of Tam’s tips:

  • Wear masks: Get creative with how you incorporate spooky designs with your COVID-19 protection.
  • Use pool noodles: To keep trick-or-treaters six feet apart, kids should hold up a pool noodle to keep their distance.
  • Hand sanitizer: Trick-or-treaters should carry them. Homes should keep them handy.
  • Stay outdoors: Hallways congested with trick-or-treaters in close proximity is a bad idea. Apartment or condo building residents should search for residential streets to trick-or-treat. And Halloween parties are definitely a no-go this year.

Low-risk alternatives to trick-or-treating

South of the border, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said Halloween can be “high-risk for spreading viruses.”

The American agency has suggested people find alternative ways to celebrate rather than going door to door and has ranked activities from low to medium to high risk.

Since Ford and de Villa have recently asked Torontonians to only make essential trips outside, families might want to consider the CDC’s low-risk activities for Halloween – i.e. things you can do at home.

Some suggestions include:

  • a household scavenger hunt
  • carving pumpkins at home
  • carving pumpkins outside while distanced from neighbours
  • hosting a movie night with the people you live with
  • hosting a virtual costume contest

Read the CDC’s full list of Halloween recommendations here.


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