Halloween a go despite COVID-19, says Alberta’s chief medical officer

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the province won’t be cancelling Halloween over COVID-19 fears.

But Dr. Deena Hinshaw says that means parents and kids have to make sure the fright-fest is scary for the right reasons.

During Thursday’s briefing, Hinshaw said she’s been getting many questions about whether the beloved holiday will go ahead.

“I have no plans to suggest that Alberta cancel Halloween this year,” Hinshaw said. “My own children would never forgive me.”

Many families are steadfast about the spooky season, maintaining there will be costumes and candy like any year, while some have opted to reimagine the tradition and keep it at home.

Hinshaw said because trick-or-treating happens outside, Halloween can actually be safer than other holidays.

She said parents should consider costumes that allow kids to wear a mask.

If the weather is good, Hinshaw recommended people hand out candy outside rather than at their front door.

The province has released a series of guidelines on its website about how both trick-or-treaters and candy handers can enjoy the night safely.

The guidelines urge adults to find creative ways to maintain distance from trick-or-treaters:

  • Hand out treats from your driveway or front lawn, if weather permits
  • Set up a table or desk to help keep yourself distanced
  • Make candy bags and space them out on a table or blanket; don’t leave out self-serve bowls of bulk candy
  • Build a candy slide, candy catapult or other non-touch delivery methods

The guidelines also suggest children should knock instead of using doorbells, avoid railings and call “trick or treat” from two metres away.

Children should canvas for candy in their own neighbourhoods with their family or cohort. Children should wash their hands regularly, and packages of candy should be disinfected before they are devoured.

Physical distancing at Halloween parties should be encouraged and the gatherings should be hosted outside, if possible. 

Hinshaw’s announcement came after she listed another 173 new cases in the province.

The new cases include an outbreak at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, where nearly 300 staff were isolating as the number of COVID-19 infections at the busy hospital continued to grow. The Foothills is a major centre for trauma, high-risk obstetrics and stroke patients.

Many of the cases are linked to cardiac units, including intensive care.

As of Thursday, 35 patients, 29 workers and three visitors had contracted the virus. One patient had died, bringing the total at the Foothills outbreak to five.

Hinshaw said there are 133 schools in the province either under alert or suffering an outbreak of COVID-19.

But she added those schools only add up to 257 active cases.

Eleven of those schools have seen evidence of likely in-school transmission, Hinshaw said.

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