Coronavirus: Middlesex-London Health Unit issues safety tips for Halloween

Jack-o'-lanterns sit on fallen leaves. FILE

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is “not telling people not to trick-or-treat” but it is reminding the public that there are some risks — and some ways of making it safer.

The health unit has issued a list of Halloween activities and events, ranking them as “safe,” “use caution,” and “unsafe” amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In the “safe” section is simply staying home with members of your own household. In that case, the health unit suggests holding a virtual costume party, having a “Halloween hunt” similar to an Easter egg hunt, watching a “spooky movie” or decorating your home.

Read more: Halloween or Hallo-don’t? What health experts are saying about the spooky night

Trick-or-treating, meanwhile, is in the “use caution” section for both those going door to door and those handing out treats.

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“We’re not telling people not to trick-or-treat. It’s definitely something that will have some degree of risk associated with it but there are ways of making trick-or-treating safer,” medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said on Monday.

“The most interesting one I’ve heard recently is putting disposable plastic cups with a few candies in it spread out across your front porch or outside your door so that kids don’t have to reach into the bowl, contaminate the bowl, and potentially pick up not just candy but COVID-19 as well.”

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For those trick-or-treating, the health unit says:

  • “Stay home if you’re sick (even mild symptoms).
  • Only trick-or-treat outside.
  • Wear a mask at all times and use hand sanitizer often.
  • Only go out with members of your household and stay two metres apart from everyone else.
  • Avoid crowding (e.g. on sidewalks, at doors, chatting with other parents while waiting for children).
  • Stay in your neighbourhood and go to fewer houses.
  • Respect houses that signal they are not participating in trick-or-treating (e.g. their lights are off, they’ve posted a sign, etc.)”

Read more: Door-to-door trick-or-treating not recommended for regions in modified Stage 2: Ontario health officials

For those handing out treats, the health unit says:

  • “Do not hand out treats if you’re sick (even mild symptoms).
  • Wear a mask at all times and use hand sanitizer often.
  • Do not hand treats directly to trick-or-treaters. Use an object to hand out treats so you maintain two metres distance. Get creative! Use a hockey stick, a witch’s broom, or slide the treat down a tube.
  • Consider placing individual treats outside (e.g. along your laneway, porch, front lawn, etc.) for trick-or-treaters to take without having to get too close to anyone else or touch other treats.
  • Do not put out a bowl full of treats for trick-or-treaters to take from that requires them to touch multiple treats.
  • Encourage trick-or-treaters to keep two metres apart from each other using markers on the ground. How about spacing pumpkins two metres apart or posting a spooky sign?
  • If possible, avoid having trick-or-treaters come up to your door by staying outside. If not possible, sanitize high-touch surfaces like your doorbell frequently.”

Read more: How Western University’s largest COVID-19 cluster happened

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Firmly in the “unsafe” section are gathering inside with others not in your household or coming into close contact with others not in your household, even on sidewalks or while waiting to get treats.

In particular, the health unit is urging against in-person Halloween parties.

“Partying during Halloween is the biggest risk,” Mackie says.

“It would definitely be in the ‘red zone, do not do it’ sort of area. Indoor parties are a great way to spread COVID-19 — we’ve seen that over and over.”

Provincially, health officials are recommending that children do not trick-or-treat door to door this Halloween for the regions currently in the modified Stage 2 as the coronavirus second wave remains in full swing.

Click to play video 'Low contact ways to hand out Halloween candy' Low contact ways to hand out Halloween candy
Low contact ways to hand out Halloween candy – Oct 27, 2020

— with files from Global News’ Natalie Lovie and Jessica Patton.