Is It Safe to Go Trick-or-Treating This Halloween?

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Halloween will look a little different this year. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch shares his expert advice on how kids and adults alike can stay safe on October 31st.

Ask An Expert: Can We Go Trick-or-Treating During This Pandemic?

Reader’s Digest Canada: Is Halloween going to be cancelled this year?
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch: Based on what we’re seeing right now, we clearly can’t have any indoor gatherings. So those types of Halloween parties are completely unacceptable. You can’t bring anyone into the house unless they live under that roof. But when it comes to kids dressing up and going door to door, I think that can be done safely.

We know outdoor environments are way less conducive for COVID-19 transmission, and we can do trick-or-treating in a way that adheres to the fundamental principles of wearing a mask, spreading apart by two metres, practising hand hygiene and avoiding crowded spaces. This is, of course, based on what we’re seeing a month before Halloween. Things could change.

How do you see those safety principles adapted specifically for trick-or-treating?
First, you stick with your family—not a big group of friends from the neighbourhood—and bring hand sanitizer with you. People at home could have individually packaged items on their fronts steps for kids to pick up. Or, they could use barbecue tongs to put the candy into kids’ bags.

What about the fact that sidewalks and porches can get pretty crowded with kids—how dangerous is that?
It’s pretty low-risk. Nothing’s going to be 100 per cent risk free, but we now know how this virus is transmitted and it’s really from close contact with an infected person, typically in an indoor environment for a prolonged period of time. That is not what we’re going to be seeing on Halloween with outdoor trick-or-treating. Having said that, if an area looks a little too crowded you can say, ‘You know what, we’re going to hold off on this area’ or ‘we’re going to wait a few minutes until things start to clear.’ It does require having situational awareness.

I should add that I’m not saying that people should go trick-or-treating, but I think people will probably choose to do it—regardless of what authorities are saying—and this is how you would do it safely. I also think it’s completely fair that many people will say, ‘You know what, this is just not the right year to do it.’

What about the candy itself? Could the virus be on it?
Early in the pandemic—especially in March and April—we saw a huge emphasis on cleaning surfaces and there were many people leaving packages delivered to their home outside or in a garage for a few days before they brought it in. There were people who were washing every grocery item before bringing it into the house. Some people are still doing those things and that’s okay. There should be no blaming or shaming about that. Having said that, at this point we know enough about the virus to say transmission from direct contact with an inanimate object would be a very low. It’s not zero per cent, of course, so we can still avoid high contact surfaces and wash our hands.

Halloween also usually comes with a last-minute rush to buy costumes, leading to jammed shops. Should people do their shopping early if possible?
Yes, or shop online. Also, people should understand that shop owners will have to limit the number of people that come in at any given time to ensure that people can distance themselves by two metres—and that wearing masks will be required inside.

Speaking of masks, it’s lucky for this holiday that people already tend to be wearing them as part of their costumes.
Yeah, exactly—that can’t hurt.

Next, Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers: “Now that kids are back in school, will I ever see my grandchildren again?

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