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Public health recommends alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating

Halloween is typically time for ghouls, goblins and ghost stories, but the scariest thing just now will likely put the kibosh on the usual October 31 festivities.

Local public health officials haven’t followed some other jurisdictions in an outright cancellation of Halloween, but they are suggesting we find alternatives, especially to the usual trick-or-treating.

Waterloo Region’s medical officer of health, Dr.Hsiu-Li Wang, is advising residents to avoid high-risk activities this year, having earlier noted it won’t be a typical Halloween, come what may.

This week she suggested “celebrating Halloween safely with members of your immediate household, including pumpkin decorating, virtual costume party, Halloween movie night, sharing spooky stories or outdoor trick-or-treat scavenger hunt in the backyard.”

The region already has some guidelines in place for marking Halloween, with changes likely if the case numbers increase.

“The general principles are as follows: limit close contact to people living in your own household; virtual gatherings are the safest way to visit with people outside your household,” said Wang in a video conference Tuesday.

“If you choose to participate in or to hold an in-person gathering with people outside your household, you need to take the following precautions: stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild or you recently had a negative COVID test; physically distance and wear a face covering with anyone else outside of your immediate household; the legal limits are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. You should keep your gathering as small as possible, use outdoor spaces as much as possible. Gathering outdoors is safer than indoors and the fewer the people, the lower the risk.”

While there are issues with the traditional approaches to Halloween that warrant alternatives, there are precautions that should be followed, Wang added.

“If you choose to go out trick or treating, only go out with members of your immediate household, physically distance and wear a face covering with anyone outside of your immediate household. Both trick-or-treaters and people handing out candy should wear a face covering, not a costume mask – a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering and should not be worn over a face covering, as this may make it difficult to breathe. Do not place treats in a bucket or bowl for children to grab – use tongs or other similar tools to hand out treats. Do not congregate or linger at doorsteps, line up two metres apart if waiting.”

Wang still has the option of cancelling Halloween activities, noting a spike in COVID-19 cases could make that possible. Given that Thanksgiving just passed, a jump in new cases could be seen within the following 10-14 days.

She noted the weekend was fairly quiet as far as incidents were concerned, but officials are watching the numbers.

“The recommended measures of physical distancing wearing a mask washing your hands and limiting close unprotected interactions, outside of your immediate household, are going to be important going forward.”

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