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Canada Adam: It's no treat to fall for COVID trick at Halloween

19:15  15 october  2020
19:15  15 october  2020 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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It should really come as no surprise that Ottawa and two other regions in Ontario have been put under partial shutdown. The surging numbers speak volumes, and that’s why we should treat the pandemic with all seriousness, leaving no room for doubt about what steps should be taken to fight the virus.

a group of people walking down a street: Mayor Jim Watson greets trick-or-treaters at City Hall in 2019. The mayor won't be handing out candies or holding Halloween events this year. © Provided by Ottawa Citizen Mayor Jim Watson greets trick-or-treaters at City Hall in 2019. The mayor won't be handing out candies or holding Halloween events this year.

That’s why Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam’s green-lighting of trick-or-treating, albeit with a caveat, comes as a disappointment. Tam says kids can go ahead with the Halloween tradition if they can physically distance and wear masks. That’s a big IF, and instead of straddling the fence, she, along with the provincial government and Ottawa Public Health, should be sending this simple and clear message: Stay at home, keep safe.

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In fact, Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, delivered precisely that message Wednesday. Conventional trick-or-treating is not a good plan, she said. Mayor Jim Watson agreed, adding he won’t be handing out any candy at the door this year. Asked about it last week, Premier Doug Ford appeared a bit less firm, though leaning toward caution. “It just makes me nervous kids going door-to-door. I’d prefer not to,” he said, then hedged. “Let’s play it by the ear and see what happens  … ”

No, we shouldn’t. Ford’s first instinct, like that of Etches, is right. We have a pandemic that has taken many lives and rising infections are threatening more people. “Left unchecked, we risk worse-case scenarios first seen in Italy and New York,” Ford said last week. At about the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is at a “tipping point” in the battle against the coronavirus. And Ottawa Public Health put Ottawa in the Red Zone, the highest level on the pandemic scale.

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If all these statements are true, and particularly, if the premier is not trying to scare us into compliance, and if Italy and New York are really where we are headed with the surging infections, we have more to worry about than trick-or-treating.

If the pandemic is deadly and spreading so alarmingly that we’ve gone into partial shutdown, no government should tell parents to take their kids trick-or-treating. If you tell people the situation is so dire we have to return to some form of lockdown, but then say, “Oh, it’s OK to take your kids trick-or-treating,” you are stepping on your message. You invite the waverers to think the situation can’t be that bad, and they start to let their guard down and take chances.

We have to be serious and consistent in our messaging. And it shouldn’t matter if the numbers go down in the next few weeks. Actually, it’s when the numbers go down that we should be even more vigilant and stay the course. Don’t forget we are in this predicament because many of us refused to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, partying and gathering in large numbers once we flattened the curve in the first wave. We thought the tide had turned and we lost our discipline. Halloween is a potential big-spreader event and we shouldn’t make the same mistake again.

How a Toronto plumber is making Halloween safer — by installing 'Candy Chutes'

  How a Toronto plumber is making Halloween safer — by installing 'Candy Chutes' A Toronto plumber is helping to make Halloween a bit safer by rigging up an alternative for handing out candy to local trick-or-treaters in his neighbourhood. Geoff Burke is working to install something called "Candy Chutes" — an inventive way to get candy to kids while practising physical distancing. "It brings a little bit of joy, and it's relatively safe," Burke said. Made out of basic PVC pipes, the chute is attached to a stair bannister in front of a house so residents can stand at the top and send down treats to kids, who wait at the bottom with their bags to ensure physical distancing.

We love our kids and want them to have fun. It’s good for them mentally, especially after what they went through in the last six months. But these are not normal times. If we have to stay home except for essentials, we should be doing so with our kids. Some might say that trick-or-treating poses little danger to kids and parents. Maybe. But if one of the key elements of fighting COVID-19 is limiting outside contacts, parents and kids shouldn’t be knocking on doors and coming into contact with people outside their homes. Better safe than sorry.

The kids may be disappointed, but parents can find creative ways to enjoy Halloween with them at home. Right now, we should all be digging in to see if we can turn the tide. There is always next year for another Halloween.

Mohammed Adam is an Ottawa journalist and commentator.

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