Your guide to celebrating Halloween in northeastern Ontario during COVID-19
Halloween decorations and pumpkins are shown at a house in Montreal, Friday, November 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
SUDBURY -- Halloween is a holiday that many children look forward to, but there still seems to be some confusion about celebrations this year. Find the information you need to celebrate Halloween safely in northeastern Ontario here.
While the Ontario government has not banned Halloween, trick-or-treating is not recommended in the COVID-19 hot spots of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto or York. In the northeast, only the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jim Chirico, echoes that sentiment and is also recommending residents do not go trick-or-treating.
While there are significantly fewer COVID-19 cases in northeastern Ontario, there is still risk associated with COVID-19. While a close contact is generally considered someone you are with for 15 minutes or longer, health officials said it doesn’t mean there is no risk in trick-or-treating.
Public health officials said while it is safest to stay home, but if you do choose to go door-to-door or hand out treats at home, take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Do not trick-or-treat or hand out treats if you are sick
- Wear a face covering, and choose face paint instead of a costume mask
- Stay two-metres apart while waiting for candy, do not linger at doorsteps
- Avoid high-touch surfaces like railings and doorbells
- Wash your hands or sanitize often
- Use tongs to hand out treats
Ontario's Ministry of Health has created printable posters to indicate if a house is offering treats or not this year.
"Don’t let your guard down. The actions we take now have a direct impact on where we are with COVID-19 2 weeks from now. I hope everyone stays safe this Halloween," said Dr. Rob Lepage, medical director for the emergency department at Health Sciences North.
Lepage said many health experts are attributing the current spike in COVID-19 cases to people not following the rules from public health during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Ontario has limited gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors and says non-essential gatherings of any size should be limited.
"We have to adjust our actions this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to encourage people to follow the guidelines our health experts have provided for us. People need to be aware that indoor groups in excess of 10 people can face enforcement action meaning fines of $880 per person," said North Bay Police Chief Scott Tod.
If you are attending or hosting a gathering, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Do not attend a gathering if you have any symptoms or if you are self-isolating
- Keep a guest list in case it is needed for contact tracing
- If food or drinks are served:
- Avoid buffet-style foodservice and plan how to physically distance while distributing and cleaning up food
- Serve food on individual plates to prevent guests from passing and touching the same objects
- Have everyone wash their hands before and after eating
- Consider participating in virtual events or not attending at all, especially if you are 70 years or older, are immunocompromised, or have underlying medical conditions
- Host a treat hunt with members of your household
- Host a virtual costume show with your friends
- Spend time bonding with those in your household by making homemade treats and decorations
- Decorate your house, this is a great opportunity for some crafty activities, like a tissue ghost
- Host your own monster mash dance party with people in your household
- Arrange for contactless delivery of spooky crafts or treats with friends and family
- Pick out some Halloween themed books to read together
North Bay area
North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has recommended not going trick-or-treating door-to-door or gathering with people outside your household this year.
Police in North Bay will not be inviting trick-or-treaters into the headquarters this year.
"The province is not recommending trick-or-treating in the Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Regions. Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in our district, I do not recommend trick-or-treating locally," said Chirico. "We need to act now to help stop the spread of COVID-19. These activities could allow the virus to spread more easily."
Sault Ste. Marie area
“We believe that trick or treating can proceed outdoors in a safe manner. People are very aware of the rules and they’ve proven that they can adapt how they go about different activities following the rules,” said Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger.
"We know that many people are wondering what activities can and cannot happen this year. While we are still navigating our first Halloween in a global pandemic, I think we can all agree that we want everyone to be safe," said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. "Changing celebratory traditions is hard but we know we can’t let our guard down yet. The best thing we can do is continue to take steps to lower our risks by taking activities outdoors or online; by wearing masks and keeping a distance; and by gathering with your household members."
"Halloween traditions, including trick-or-treating, are important activities for mental and social well-being. Many of us look forward to participating in trick-or-treating, Halloween-themed special events or gatherings. To keep our families and communities safe, it’s important to find creative and new ways to celebrate. Luckily, there are plenty of fun and unique approaches to enjoy Halloween in a way that works for you and your family," said Porcupine Health Unit's website.
If you are planning to go out to collect candy, Ontario Provincial Police also want you to be safe and have provided some tips:
Children and Parents:
- Start trick-or-treating early before it gets too dark
- Carry a flashlight and select a costume with bright colours and reflective material to increase visibility to drivers
- Use makeup instead of masks -masks can reduce one's ability to see obstacles, vehicles and other people
- Avoid baggy, long and oversized costumes that can be a tripping hazard
- Walk, don't run and remember to stop, look and listen before crossing the street
- Never criss-cross the street. Cross at crosswalks or intersections. Call on one side of the street, then the other
- Never trick or treat alone, children under 10 should be accompanied by an adult
- Plan the route ahead of time and set a curfew
- If trick-or-treating with friends tell your parents/guardians your route and when you will be home
- Stay in familiar neighbourhoods and only go to homes that are well-lit and that are participating in Halloween
- Never go inside a stranger's house to get your treat
- Always have your treats checked by an adult before eating them
- Turn on outdoor lights and replace burnt-out bulbs
- Remove items from your yard or porch that might trip a child
- Sweep wet leaves from your steps and sidewalk
- Use alternatives to candles in your pumpkins such as a flashlight or battery-operated candle. If you do use a candle, never leave it unattended
- Drive slowly in residential areas where children are more likely to be trick or treating. Watch out for children, many of whom may be wearing costumes with masks that make it difficult for them to see. Children are excited; they may dart out in traffic.
- Remember that costumes can limit a child's vision and they may not be able to see your vehicle.
- Reduce your distractions and stay alert.
- Remember to enter and exit driveways slowly and carefully. Proceed with caution.
- Put down your phone for safety sake!
- Never drive while impaired!