Covid-19 rules for this month’s holidays will be less strict than last year in Canada’s Ontario province, but health officials have attached some strings to the eased guidelines, including a quieter trick-or-treating experience.
Provincial chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore warned on Thursday that children shouldn’t “sing or shout” for their treats on Halloween, so as to avoid aerosolizing and spreading the virus. He also advised parents that a regular Halloween mask is not a replacement for a surgical mask, so they’ll need to “be creative and build the face covering into your costume.”
Moore acknowledged that children need to speak to ask for their treats, but they should “just not yell too exuberantly.” He added, “Clearly you have to make your presence known to get your treat, and you have to be able to knock as well as ask for the treat. We just ask not with a high volume that could potentially aerosolize.”
Moore also expects trick-or-treaters to be orderly, taking turns receiving their treats one at a time rather than crowding doorsteps – a typical sight on the holiday during other years – also encouraging social distancing and to keep their interactions with other people brief. They’re also advised to use hand sanitizer often, such as before and after handling their treats, but good news: It’s not necessary to disinfect pre-packaged candy.
Social media users mocked the guidelines, in some cases pointing out that the spread of Covid-19 is far more likely in such school settings as lunchrooms and music classes.
“Kids don’t get candy at my door unless their mouths are double-duct-taped,” one Twitter user quipped. “Don’t be soft. We have to stop this deadly pandemic.” Another commenter tweeted, “Well gee, why not take it a step further and just encourage kids not to breathe? After all, breathing seems to be the real culprit here.”
Kids don’t get candy at my door unless their mouths are double duct taped. Don’t be soft we have to stop this deadly pandemic.
While the rules might seem onerous, trick-or-treating was banned entirely in some Canadian communities last year. And Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday, which is celebrated on the second Monday of October, was hindered last year by gathering limits. In fact, Thanksgiving gatherings were discouraged altogether in some locations.
Indoor gatherings were limited to 10 people at this time last year in Ontario. That limit is now at 25, meaning bigger turkeys will be in demand. But Moore advised inviting as few people as possible and asking guests to stay away if they have even the mildest of possible Covid-19 symptoms.
Other Thanksgiving guidelines include making lists of guests in case local health officials need help contact-tracing, opening windows if possible and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. And people at high risk of severe illness from Covid-19, such as those with compromised immune systems, should consider participating “virtually,” the advisory said.
If all people attending a gathering are vaccinated against Covid-19, “you may consider removing your face covering if everyone is comfortable,” Moore said. But if at least one guest is not fully vaccinated – or their jab status isn’t known – masks should be worn even for outdoor gatherings, and physical-distancing rules should be followed.
Ontario continues to see hundreds of new Covid-19 cases daily, including 587 on Thursday, even though nearly 82% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
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