Pandemic spectre leaves the fate of Halloween up in the air

·2 min read

It's the night goblins and ghouls come out to play, but it remains uncertain whether Ontario's children will be able to join in the fun this Halloween.

David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer, said last week that he may ask people to limit their activities on the spookiest night of the year, but hasn't come to a decision about trick or treating just yet.

"We're looking at the protection of the children so that they're not bringing more than the candy back home with them," Williams said.

Experts argue that close contact with strangers while going door-to-door could expose people to COVID-19. Touching common surfaces, like doorbells or candy bars, could also allow the virus to spread.

There's also the possibility that gathering in large groups or hosting parties could end up being responsible for super-spreader events.

Parents may need to get creative

Still, Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, believes there's hope for the holiday — although parents and children may have to get creative if they want to celebrate.

"There's a lot of dressing up and treats that can be done and handled in a safer way," Etches told reporters at a Friday press conference.

Etches said she'll provide more advice after the province releases its recommendations, but nevertheless stressed it's important to remember the basics around preventing COVID-19.

"What's giving us success is that people are keeping two metres distance from each other," she said. "That they're wearing a mask when they're indoors. That they're staying home when they're sick and they're washing their hands."

"So that's how we should approach Halloween: we should use those same behaviours."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Dr. Gerald Evans, an epidemiologist at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., says discussions about trick or treating may be missing the point.

Evans said he sees signs of a second wave, partially because of an ongoing increase in cases among young people — and stemming that will be the bigger concern.

"Only ... healthy kids are going to be able to trick or treat," he said.