Halloween in 2021: The do's and don'ts of trick-or-treating in Toronto during the pandemic

·3 min read
Health experts say trick-or-treating can be done safely this weekend, so long as people remain primarily outdoors.   (Shutterstock - image credit)
Health experts say trick-or-treating can be done safely this weekend, so long as people remain primarily outdoors. (Shutterstock - image credit)

Going door-to-door asking for candy from strangers may seem ill-advised during a global pandemic, but health experts are reassuring Torontonians that trick-or-treating can be done safely this Halloween.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore and Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at University Health Network, say families should not forgo the annual tradition, which takes place this Sunday, out of fear of transmission of COVID-19.

While young children are currently unvaccinated, as long as trick-or-treating takes place mostly outdoors, the chance of contracting the virus is very low, Moore and Bogoch say.

But there are some aspects of the festivities that should be avoided or modified, for an added level of safety.

Do: take the festivities outdoors

While trick-or-treating is a primarily outdoor activity, families should be extra mindful of this during the pandemic.

"In general if you're outside with your family, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is extraordinarily low," Bogoch said during an interview with CBC News Network Friday.

Indoor Halloween parties should once again be avoided this year, he said.

"You've got to avoid large indoor gatherings and large indoor settings especially with unvaccinated kids. So a big Halloween party at someone's house is not what we're talking about here, that's a perfect set up for COVID-19 transmission, but outdoor trick-or-treating — it's about as safe as it gets."

Do: wear a proper mask

Both Moore and Bogoch stress that surgical masks must continue to be worn during trick-or-treating, and a costume mask alone will not suffice.

"When it comes to your costumes, a costume mask is no substitute for a proper face covering — so be creative and make your face covering a part of your outfit," said Moore, speaking during a news conference Thursday.

This goes for those distributing candy, too.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Don't: congregate on doorsteps

Moore said physical distancing should be maintained and close contact with other people should be avoided.

"Do not overcrowd the doorsteps, take your turns and keep the interactions brief," Moore said.

Bogoch said if one house looks particularly popular, to "wait for the crowd to disperse before you go knock on that door."

Don't: worry about touching candy

Bogoch said not to be too concerned about children touching candy that others have handled.

"You're not going to get this virus from touching the candy that someone else touched. Of course we know that hand hygiene is still extremely important, we just know this is a very rare mode of transmission for COVID-19."

Hand sanitizer could be carried around with trick-or-treaters or kept nearby at houses handing out candy as an extra precaution.

Do: be careful driving

Moore said drivers should be extra vigilant on the roads this weekend.

"Kids are going to be on the street. It will be dark and too many incidents have occurred on our roads so please, please drive cautiously and carefully," he said.

Families should consider incorporating reflective stripes into childrens' costumes to ensure they are visible to passing vehicles, Moore added.

Paul Borkwood/CBC
Paul Borkwood/CBC

Do: modify the tradition

Bogoch said there are ways for people to get creative while also ensuring trick-or-treaters maintain physical distancing.

"We've seen some people put little cups outside so people can help themselves to candy, if people are really concerned," he said.

"People can modify their home or modify how they trick or treat or modify how they dole out candy to make sure that they're more outdoors than indoors."

Don't: go trick or treating if you are unwell

"It bears repeating that if you're sick, even with mild symptoms, you should not be participating in Halloween festivities. Consider getting tested for COVID-19," Moore said.

Do: have fun

Bogoch reminded trick-or-treaters, as well as those wanting to hand out candy, that the tradition is "in general, a very safe environment."

"Halloween can be done in a very, very safe manner and I hope people enjoy it and have fun."

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