Halloween a go in New Brunswick with new COVID-19 guidelines
Chief medical officer of health also offers recommendations for Thanksgiving
It's no trick. Halloween is expected to proceed in New Brunswick — complete with door-to-door trick-or-treating — but with some recommended changes because of COVID-19.
As long as the province stays in the Yellow phase of recovery, there are steps people can take to keep themselves and others safe, said Chief Medical Officer of Health.Dr. Jennifer Russell.
Cleanliness is key, she said.
People who are handing out treats should sanitize their hands between visitors, keep high-touch areas such as door handles and railings clean and consider offering non-food treats such as stickers or coloured pencils.
Trick-or-treaters should wash their hands before heading out and upon returning home, Russell advised during Friday's COVID-19 briefing in Fredericton.
They should also avoid contact for several days with anyone in their family and friend bubble who is considered at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, she said.
Other recommendations include:
- Do not wear Halloween masks, only COVID-19 masks.
- Consider organizing costume parades so children can show off their costumes while maintaining physical distancing.
- Trick-or-treaters should limit themselves to one neighbourhood and keep track of where they go.
- Do not permit children to take candy from a bowl of treats unless the treats are arranged so that children wonʼt come in contact with other treats when they grab theirs. Doing up individual treat bags is a good option.
- People who don't want to participate should put up a sign, such as: Have a happy and safe Halloween; no visitors please.
Keep Thanksgiving gatherings small
Russell also offered some guidance Friday regarding Thanksgiving, recommending people keep their gatherings small and hold them outside, weather permitting.
Informal indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, provided Public Health measures are followed, and the host is advised to keep a list of guests.
Everyone should wash their hands before preparing food or eating, she said.
Anyone who isn't feeling well should stay home, and if a host isn't feeling well, they should cancel or reschedule.
"It's just not worth the risk," Russell told reporters.
"This will be a different Thanksgiving, but with some thought and planning, it can still be special."
0 new cases, 5 active cases
No new cases of COVID-19 were recorded for the seventh day in a row Friday and one more case has recovered.
There are now five active cases of the respiratory disease in the province — three in the Moncton region (Zone 1), one is attributed to the Fredericton region (Zone 3), although the infected person is actually in Ontario recovering, and one is in the Bathurst region (Zone 6).
An infected Quebec resident who works in Campbellton is being counted in the Quebec numbers. Contact tracing is being conducted in New Brunswick.
A total of 661 COVID-19 tests were completed Thursday, bringing the total number of tests conducted since the pandemic began in March to 78,635.
There have been 200 cases of COVID-19 in the province to date, with 193 recoveries and two deaths.
Municipalities wanted guidance
Earlier this month, some municipalities said they were hoping for guidance from the province about how to handle trick-or-treating during a pandemic. The City of Saint John was among them.
"Participation in Halloween activities is a personal choice and the City of Saint John will not impose additional measures or direction above that provided by provincial authorities," the city said in a statement Friday.
People who choose to participate in Halloween activities must follow the Public Health guidelines, it said, and trick-or-treaters are asked to respect the wishes of any household that chooses not to participate.
On Sept. 15, Woodstock council voted to ban door-to-door trick–or–treating.
"It came as a result of some inquiries from some of our citizens in town about how they didn't feel comfortable with people coming to their door for Halloween and with the COVID restrictions, it was a bit of a concern that they had," Mayor Arthur Slipp said last month.
COVID committee weighs in
While no Halloween specifics were revealed during a panel discussion with the COVID-19 all-party cabinet committee earlier Friday on CBC's Information Morning Fredericton, Green Party Leader David Coon said it would be a happy Halloween for everyone.
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin agreed, saying it was important to allow society to carry on as much as possible as long as the recommendations of Public Health were followed.
"I think right now it's just important that society continues on, you know, with in mind that we are still in a pandemic and to do the right thing."
Roger Melanson, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, said if the recommendation was to go ahead with Halloween, all precautions would have to be taken.
"And at the end of the day, it's the parents' decisions to, and with their children, to decide if yes or no they would want to do trick-or-treating, if that's the decision to be allowed."
With files from Gail Harding