With Halloween on our doorstep, health officials are giving the green light to trick-or-treating but Halloween parties are a no go.
B.C.’s health officials say trick-or-treating can be done safely, provided several recommendations by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) are followed. The go ahead comes as B.C. sees daily positive COVID-19 cases in the hundreds, including a record 817 new cases over the Oct. 23 to 25 weekend.
While some cities including Ottawa and Toronto have recommended not to have kids trick-or-treat, both federal health officials and B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry have said this can be done safely provided several precautions are taken.
The BCCDC says trick-or-treating should be done locally, in your neighbourhood, avoiding busy or indoor areas like malls.
Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease expert and clinical associate professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine’s department of pediatrics, says the key to a safe Halloween this year is to keep it small. And small means six people or less.
“It’s also important to look at who your child has been exposed to recently. If your child regularly plays with another child in the neighbourhood outside in the park, then conceivably they could trick-or-treat together on Halloween, following physical distancing guidelines, similar to a school friend,” he told Black Press.
And as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has previously recommended, wearing a non-medical mask when trick-or-treating is encouraged Murthy said. This could include making that mask part of your costume while keeping in mind that not all masks are created equal and those that accompany a costume might not be enough to prevent respiratory particles from getting through.
Make sure children don’t wear both a costume mask and a non-medical mask, Murthy added, as this could make it hard to breathe.
Other things to think about, Murthy said, include not shouting ‘trick-or-treat’ when on a doorstep, to make sure respiratory droplets aren’t passed on to the person opening their door.
And for those who go all-out decorating their homes, they are advised to not bring out the smoke machines or other props that can cause coughing.
As British Columbians are now very much used to, keeping your distance is also recommended. This would mean allowing the previous trick-or-treating party to leave the house before your group walks up the driveway Murthy said.
Houses that are dark should not be approached, since people may be avoiding handing out candy this year. The BCCDC recommends those who are sick or self-isolating to turn off their porch light and stay home on Halloween.
For those handing out treats, the BCCDC says you should get creative in how you get the candy to the kids –this could include using tongs, a baking sheet or a candy slide or chute. Canada’s chief public health officer said the great Canadian tool, a hockey stick, could also be used to hand out treats. A pool noodle could also come in handy, she added, to remind people to stay 2 metres apart.
Handing out treats outside is recommended if possible, if not, doorbells and other high touch areas should be cleaned and disinfected. To make it more accessible, consider handing out treats at the bottom of your stairs or curbside.
Those handing out treats should also be wearing a non-medical mask and should hand out individual, pre-packaged treats instead of offering a bowl that people might be tempted to dunk their hands into.
As for when kids (and kids-at-heart) come home with their candy haul, Murthy said cleaning candies is not required. It is a good idea, however, for people to wash their hands before and after eating treats as well as handwashing before they leave the house and when they return.
As Henry reiterated several times in her Oct. 26 update, people should not be attending Halloween parties. If you must host a social gathering, the BCCDC recommends to ‘stick to six.’ Small parties should be kept within your social group and you should know everyone who attends, no plus ones. Stay outside as much as possible and don’t pass around ‘snacks, drinks, smokes, tokes and vapes’ the BCCDC stated.
The District of Hope doesn’t have any additional guidelines, chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky said, adding that the district looks to Fraser Health to set these guidelines. On Halloween safety, Fraser Health’s information mirrors that of the BCCDC.
The BCCDC’s guidelines can be found at bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/social-interactions/halloween. More information about to hold safer celebrations can be found at bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/social-interactions/safer-celebrations-and-ceremonies.
– with files from Katya Slepian
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