By: Surjit Flora
Spooky season isn’t a sure thing if some elected officials have anything to say about it.
With Halloween just around the corner, the provincial government urged trick-or-treaters on Monday to refrain from going door-to-door this season and pursue alternate forms of celebrating the annual event.
“Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions, traditional door to-door trick or treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate,” the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, said regarding the matter.
The announcement came as Peel and other COVID-19 hotspots, including Toronto, York Region and Ottawa, grapple with rising case counts of the virus. On Wednesday, public health officials in Toronto reported that the positivity rate of COVID-19 tests had nearly doubled a “high alert threshold” previously issued by the province, with 4.4 per cent of tests returning with a positive result.
Despite the tone of the messaging, Premier Doug Ford said the intent of the advice was not to instill fear in children or families. “We all know this isn’t going to be a regular Halloween,” Ford said Monday, citing that the recommendations were made with the advice of cabinet members and Dr. Williams. “We just can’t have hundreds of kids showing up at your door if you live in a hotspot, especially in an apartment building.”
Despite the announcement, Williams admitted that there was no suggestion or guidance he could say that could prevent infection in children or families who go trick-or treating in areas with high transmission rates, and suggested that when children are out in groups, “there’s a lot of chatter and close contact, and with all that enthusiasm, it’s really hard to control.”
A similar tone played out in Brampton, as the city said traditional door to-door trick-or-treating was “not recommended,” and said it would be hosting a number of alternative activities for families to enjoy on Oct. 31.
“In light of the province’s decision advising against trick or treating, the city is taking a number of steps to celebrate Halloween this year in Brampton, and I encourage everyone to enjoy the fun activities we have planned,” said Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, citing a number of activities including a pumpkin decorating contest, free activity kits and an social media-centric costume contest.
The city also recommended that parents encourage their children to dress up and participate in virtual activities and events, carve pumpkins at home and decorate their front lawns as alternative activities. “Health and safety are our priority as Halloween festivities take place across Brampton this year,” said the city’s chief administrative officer, David Barrick.