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How to make trick-or-treating as safe as possible during the pandemic

A recent poll found many Canadians still have high anxiety about door-to-door encounters and possible exposure to COVID-19.
halloween
People go trick or treating in the rain on Halloween in Ottawa, on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Trick-or-treating has a few things going it for it already when it comes to COVID-19 safety. It's predominantly an outdoor activity, and it's the one time of year kids are actually excited about donning a mask.

But there's more than ghosts and goblins to fear on Halloween.

A recent poll found many Canadians still have high anxiety about door-to-door encounters and possible exposure to COVID-19. The poll found fewer than half of Canadians (44 per cent) will be opening their doors to trick-or-treaters this year because of the pandemic.

Last year, Ontario recommended that kids in the four COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Regions refrain from trick-or-treating. But with higher vaccination rates and waning cases, no such directive is in place this year. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't ways to make things safer.

Earlier this month, the province released its guidelines for Halloween (link) and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has also released tips on how to keep Halloween as virus-free as possible:

OPH tips for celebrating Halloween:

If you choose to trick-or-treat door-to-door:
  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • Trick-or-treat outdoors as much as possible.
  • Be creative and build the face covering into your costume, but know that a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering. A costume mask should not be worn over a non-medical mask or face covering because it can make it hard to breathe.
  • Use hand sanitizer often. Before and after handling your face covering, when you arrive home from trick-or-treating, and before and after handling or eating treats.

If you choose to give out treats:
  • Do not participate in Halloween festivities if you have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • Keep interactions with trick-or-treaters brief.
  • Consider wearing a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained, and remember that a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering.
  • Clean your hands often throughout the evening using soap and water or hand sanitizer.

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) also has tips to keep Halloween as safe and fun as possible:
  • Bring a flashlight;
  • Walk instead of running;
  • Stay on the sidewalks (If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left-hand side of the street facing traffic);
  • Avoid jaywalking;
  • Do not cut across lawns or take short-cuts;
  • Take masks off when walking from one house to the next;
  • Do not go inside houses and do not get into vehicles;
  • Only visit houses that are lit;
  • Stay away from animals you are not familiar with; and
  • Vandalism is not just a 'trick' - it is against the law and has consequences.

Costumes:
  • Wear a light-coloured or bright costume, reflective tape or arm bands to heighten visibility.
  • Wear a costume that is properly fitted to reduce the chance of tripping on it.
  • Select a costume that is constructed from flame-retardant materials.
  • Make sure your vision is not restricted. Consider completing your costume with make-up rather than masks. Masks may require that the eye-holes be cut larger for the sake of good peripheral vision.
  • Shoes should fit properly even if they do not go well with a costume.
  • If a child's costume requires the use of props, such as a flexible-plastic sword, make sure the sharp tip is cut or filed round.
  • Glow sticks are also an excellent method to increase a child's visibility. You might want to consider creating a fun necklace with string to ensure they will want to wear as part of their costumes.
  • Accessorize with a flashlight.
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