FILE – People go trick or treating in the rain on Halloween in Ottawa, on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

FILE – People go trick or treating in the rain on Halloween in Ottawa, on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Wash your hands, not your candy: UBC offers COVID-safe tips for Halloween trick-or-treating

Wearing a non-medical mask and keeping groups small is key

With Halloween right around the corner, a University of B.C. researcher is offering tips for COVID-safe trick-or-treating experience this year.

Cases of the virus have spiked in B.C, with a record-high 274 new cases on Thursday (Oct. 22), largely linked to social gatherings. Health officials are expected to provide weekend numbers on Monday (Oct. 26) afternoon.

READ MORE: B.C shatters single-day COVID-19 record with 274 new cases; most linked to gatherings

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease expert and clinical associate professor in UBC faculty of medicine’s department of pediatrics, said it is possible to have a COVID-safe Halloween this year. The key, Murthy said, is to keep it small – six people or less.

“It’s also important to look at who your child has been exposed to recently. If your child regularly plays with another child in the neighbourhood outside in the park, then conceivably they could trick-or-treat together on Halloween, following physical distancing guidelines, similar to a school friend,” he said.

While some Canadian cities like Ottawa and Toronto have recommended that kids not trick-or-treat this year, B.C. has said it can be done safely.

However, there are a few caveats. Murthy said that while it’s unreasonable to expect kids to not say “tick-or-treat” when they ask for candy, they should probably avoid yelling it – or anything else – to slow the transmission of respiratory droplets.

Children are being encouraged to wear non-medical masks this year, and Murthy said that getting creative and decorating one is a good way to incorporate it into a costume in a fun way.

But not all costume masks are created equal.

“If there’s a big hole in the costume mask then respiratory particles can get through, and it probably won’t work well as a mask,” he said, adding that kids should also not wear both costume and non-medical masks together because it can make it hard to breathe.

Keeping distance is also key, with Murthy recommending that groups keep their distance from others, including by waiting for the previous party to leave a house before walking up the driveway. It’s also a good idea that this year, more than any other, to not go up to houses that are dark since many people may not want to hand out candy this year.

Cleaning candy however, isn’t needed, Murthy said, although it’s a good idea to wash your hands before and after eating any treats.

For houses handing out treats, Murthy recommends keeping your distance from trick-or-treaters by using something like a chute or using tongs. Otherwise, a mask is always recommended and so is waiting for kids outside where the risk of transmission is lower.

READ MORE: B.C. CDC releases Thanksgiving, Halloween tips for COVID-safe fall celebrations


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