Oct. 20, 2020: This article has been updated with the most current information about Halloween advice across the country.
Going door-to-door for trick or treating was banned, and then unbanned in Los Angeles; haunted houses, parades, and many mainstay attractions are also cancelled until next year. While we’re still a month and a half away, pandemic jokes about a socially distant Halloween have already started making the rounds online.
And one Ohio dad’s MacGuyvered solution for giving candy out has made some laugh and others reach for their toolbox.
But don’t rush to the hardware store to make a DIY candy chute just yet: For the most part, the majority of Canadian public health officials and politicians have shared optimistic expectations for the holiday’s sugary tradition to continue.
Here’s what Canadian parents should keep in mind as they plan for Halloween:
Health experts say cancellation is a numbers game
Epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan told CTV that if national COVID-19 cases are at same level or lower in October than they are now, Canadians can “probably manage some semblance of trick-or-treat[ing].” Higher case numbers than what we’re dealing with now — we currently have close to 140,000 cases, with worries about rising numbers due to school openings — would make going door to door risky, Deonandan said.
It should also be noted that trick-or-treating isn’t as big a risk factor for creating super-spread situations as dining out can be, according to one health expert.
“If community transmission is very, very high and we have to really start locking things down, yeah, we’re going to have to lose Halloween,” Dr. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist, told the Canadian Press, adding that “We shouldn’t be doing that before we’re closing bars and restaurants and other things.”
Where the provinces currently stand
British Columbia: Provincial public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gave her approval for pandemic Halloween celebrations, in a press conference last Wednesday. Guidelines are still a work-in-progress, but Henry advised families to consider outdoor neighbourhood events over indoor gatherings.
Ontario: Premier Doug Ford said the province will “play it by ear” before coming to a final decision last Thursday, with Toronto mayor John Tory indicating to CP24 that he would cancel Halloween in the city should chief health officer Dr. Eileen de Villa advise him to. As of Oct. 19, 2020, the advice from health officials was to cancel door-to-door trick or treating in Ontario’s hot spots, which include Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York region.
Alberta: Guidelines are underway to make Halloween enjoyable, public health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a September news briefing.
Nova Scotia: An unnamed public health spokesperson told CBC that the province will give an answer closer to late October.
Prince Edward Island: Public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said Halloween would proceed as always in September, with some changes made to account for the virus.
If you do go out trick-or-treating, take precautions
Taking candy from strangers isn’t the biggest risk factor of Halloween, Good Housekeeping reports. Rather, it’s the spread that happens when you walk with a big group. Consider travelling only with family members or other people in your bubble can help cut down on exposure.
Parents should also remind their children of social distancing when approaching others. When ringing doorbells, it may be wise to take a step back before the door swings open in order to maintain social distancing. The Edmonton Journal states that some parents are considering using tongs in their visits, in order to keep enough space between kids and the home residents they visit.
And as with any outdoor trip, wearing a face mask and packing hand sanitizer is always a good idea. It’s also worth reminding particularly excitable young kids to save the chocolate bar-unwrapping for later, as popping candy in your mouth with dirty hands is less than ideal.
Avoid high-risk outdoor events
Some of the biggest parties, like Toronto’s Church Street bash, have already been preemptively scrapped to reduce potential community spread. Consider following local protocol for get-togethers and avoiding any large gatherings, as they may contribute to a spike in case numbers.
If you don’t go out, there are plenty of safe ways to celebrate
Halloween at home can be just as fun for little ones. A Zoom Halloween party with friends or an Easter-style hunt for hidden candy could be the least risky indoor options for families.
Making the act of giving candy at a social distance could also be a fun activity for the whole family to get involved in.
And there’s no beating the the classic Halloween movie binge, that’s made easier with streaming services like Netflix. You can keep it festive with a costume sleepover: May we suggest matching Halloween-themed PJs? The best part is, you won’t have to worry about the virus and you can look stylish while getting cozy with loved ones.
Also on HuffPost: