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How to keep your haunted house free of COVID-19, and other Halloween tips from N.W.T. health officials

In the N.W.T., health officials say keep your circles small and your screaming outdoors this Halloween.

‘Screaming produces a lot of respiratory droplets,’ release warns

Those planning haunted houses for Halloween will need to do some extra work this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Halloween is normally the time of year when we welcome spooky strangers at our door. But this year, those visits can be extra scary with the prospect of COVID-19 lurking under every mask.

To help plan a safe holiday, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer has released some guidelines for taking part in Halloween this year.

In a release Thursday, health authorities say trick-or-treating is a "generally low-risk activity, so long as the right precautions are taken." That means following rules to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

"Non-medical face coverings" take on a whole new meaning over Halloween, but wearing a mask this year as part of your costume might be a good idea. Keeping it on while trick or treating will keep you safe from any coronavirus-carrying droplets on your journey.

As usual, hand washing is important. If you touch your mask or frequently touched surfaces, like doorbells and candy bowls, make sure you wash your hands before touching your face or eating any tasty treats.

One trick is to pack a pair of mittens and keep them on until getting home — it'll help keep hands clean and warm during the frequently chilly northern Halloween.

Travelling in groups may be a natural response to a spooky atmosphere, but the chief public health officer urges residents to keep those groups small this year.

"Keep your trick-or-treating partners to your household and … the five people you like to spend time with most," the release reads.

At the door, keep your visits brief, and try to space your group from others by at least two metres. When you get home, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before digging into your candy haul.

Keeping the treats outside might be a good idea this year, since COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Advice for haunted houses

For those organizing a spooky show for visitors this year, the chief public health officer also has advice for you.

Trick-or-treating should be kept outdoors as much as possible, which may mean putting the candy bowl on your porch this year.

If you're planning a full-on haunted house experience, keep in mind that "screaming produces a lot of respiratory droplets." You'll want to make sure you're protected by a non-medical mask at all times.

For visitors, try to provide some guidance on physical distancing, with glow-in-the-dark markers every six feet. Keep a sign-in sheet so if someone is infected, you're able to let health authorities know everyone who visited.

Try to keep groups from mixing, and control crowds — remember, no more than 25 people are allowed indoors at any time.

If you think ghosts and vampires are scary, imagine the consequences of an outbreak at your haunted house — Thursday's release says, "proprietors are responsible."

On top of everything else, remember to have fun. As Julie Green, the territory's health minister, says in the release, "being able to celebrate Halloween is important for our territory's social and mental well-being."

Stay safe and stay spooky, N.W.T., and enjoy our first "pandemic Halloween".

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