Advice from Federal, Provincial and Local Public Health Officials for Halloween

Halloween this year is going to be different, but how? What Halloween looks like, and what activities people will be able to take part in, might depend on where you live, and what the COVID-19 outbreak situation is, but there’s been no shortage of advice from all our various levels of government. The devil’s (heh) is in the details, but if there’s one thing everyone can agree on it’s no Halloween house parties! Here’s the rest of the advice…

A couple of weeks ago, Canada’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam said that celebrating Halloween this year meant “finding a balance.” In terms of coming up with policy, Tam said that she and other public health officials were “trying to provide some degree of normality, even though it is actually different from any other year.”

“There’s some really interesting ideas where people are handing out treats at the end of a hockey stick or something,” Tam said. “Using a pool noodle to tell your kids how far they should be standing apart from [other people].”

There is no set of guidelines or advice from Federal health officials about the safest ways to celebrate Halloween, probably because its difficult to come up with a country-wide policy when COVID is spreading at different speeds across Canada. So instead, “You should listen to your local public health direction because activities are different in different parts of Canada right now,” Dr. Tam suggested.

In terms of our local advise, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is suggesting that you spend Halloween only with the people in your home, which means no inviting friends over for any parties large or small.

As for trick-or-treating, Public Health has given their permission for kids to take part this year, but they recommend going door-to-door only with other people in your house. If you happen to be staying at home, and you want to give out candy, Public Health says you should hand out treats in separate bags, or use utensils like tongs to hand out candy to allow for physical distancing.

If you trick or treat, or are handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, you are also being advised to wear a mask or face covering, and while you can incorporate the mask into your costume, many masks the come with store bought Halloween costumes are not an acceptable substitute for more typical face coverings.

Public Health also says that if you’re not feeling well, or are actively showing symptoms of COVID-19, then you should definitely stay home and self-isolate. The dangers of the pandemic may also make some people unwilling to open their doors and give out candy even with the aforementioned public health advice, and if that sounds like you, you might be interested in one of these.

This poster, and another one that says “Welcome trick-or-treaters” is available on the Government of Ontario’s webpage on safe Halloween advice. If you don’t feel safe, or if you or someone in your home is sick, print off this poster and put out your porch light so that trick-or-treaters know not to knock on your door.

For some places in Ontario that are currently under Stage 2 restrictions – Toronto, Peel Region, Ottawa, and York Region – provincial public health is advising that people limit Halloween activities to pumpkin carving, virtual Halloween events, outdoor movie nights, and candy scavenger hunts in your own home. For the rest of the Ontario, there are similar rules to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health: only go out with members of your house, wear face coverings, and keep your physical distance.

Outdoor activities remain the safest sort of activities so long as you’re masking in close quarters and physical distancing, but if you’re interested in a local celebration for Halloween, there are a couple of options. Several businesses in the Downtown Dining District will be having a pumpkin carving contest with all proceeds going to HOPE House, and tickets are still available for the Halloween edition of Jaywalking’s “The Unfortunate Man.” (Sadly, all weekend dates for the Ghost Walk of Guelph are sold out.)

Photo Credit: Scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.

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