No trick-or-treating this Halloween in COVID-19 hotspots, Ontario's top doctor recommends
TORONTO -- Ontario’s top doctor is urging kids in COVID-19 hotspots not to go trick-or-treating this Halloween.
Dr. David Williams made the recommendation on Monday morning in a news release.
“Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate,” he said.
Instead, officials say that families should celebrate Halloween in their own household by organizing a candy hunt, carving pumpkins or hosting a movie night.
Williams also said that families should not travel outside of their neighbourhoods to go trick-or-treating.
Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa reverted to Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan earlier this month, with York Region joining the list of COVID-19 hotspots on Monday.
Under Stage 2, indoor dining has been prohibited and facilities such as gyms and movie theatres have been forced to close.
“We’re trying to make it as safe and simple as possible, my friends, we all know this isn’t going to be a regular Halloween,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference held Monday afternoon. “We just can’t have hundreds of kids showing up at your door if you live in a hotspot, especially in an apartment building.”
“Believe me, I don't want to be the bad guy out there that says kids can't go trick or treating.”
For families living outside of the COVID-19 hotspots, Williams recommends only going trick-or-treating outdoors with members of your household. Both trick-or-treaters and those handing out candy should wear masks.
“A costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering and should not be worn over a face covering as it may make it difficult to breathe,” officials clarified.
Officials are asking people not to “congregate or linger at doorsteps” and to stay physically distanced while waiting for candy.
Homeowners are also being asked not to leave treats in a bucket or bowl for children and to consider using tongs or other tools to hand out candy.
Halloween shouldn’t be 'too tough' to do safely, Toronto doctor argues
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the decision to cancel trick-or-treating in Ontario’s largest cities “doesn’t sit right” with him and that the goal should always be to try and carry out normal activities safely.
“I think this is something that we can likely do in a safe manner,” Bogoch told CTV News Toronto, adding that if people stick within their household units, stay physically distant from others and use hand sanitizer the risk is relatively low.
“Of course, something like this requires people who are trick-or-treating to be mindful of the area around them and maybe require some situational awareness on behalf of the parents to keep kids out of crowded areas, but it certainly can be done in a safe manner.”
At the same time, Bogoch said that it's important that everyone continue to follow the advice and recommendations made by public health officials.
Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath said that the Halloween messaging has been confusing, considering children can go to school indoors and take the bus.
“But somehow, you know door-knocking, outdoor activity is more dangerous than that, so I mean, I don't blame parents if they're extremely confused as to what's happened here,” she said.
For his part, Williams told reporters that he could not think of any specific guidelines that would keep parents and kids safe in high-risk regions.
“I still remember what it was like, (the kids) go around in groups and every time they finish they get together in a huddle, there’s a lot of chatter and close contact, and with all that enthusiasm it’s really hard to control that.”
At a seperate news conference on Monday, Mayor John Tory acknowledged that the news is “profoundly disappointing” for children in Toronto, but insisted that the measure is necessary in the face of high case numbers in the city.
“Things will be different this year, just like many other holidays and special occasions. That’s the sad reality of this pandemic,” Tory said. “Celebrate at home with each other, dress up with the kids and double the planned candy handout for next year.”
In a tweet published following the news conference, City of Toronto Spokesperson Brad Ross underscored that the messaging on trick-or-treating in the city is "advice" and that there is "no law or bylaw prohibiting it and, therefore, no law or bylaw to enforce."