Ottawa

All dressed up with nowhere to go: Kids reckon with a very different Halloween

Halloween is the latest tradition that's being reimagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, following advice from Ottawa's medical officer of health that this isn't a year to go trick-or-treating.

Ottawa Public Health urging families not to go trick-or-treating this year

Pirate Zain Charania, 8, and his sister Rosie, 5, who is dressed as 'The Descendants' character Mal won't be trick-or-treating with their friends this year. (Neelam Charania)

Halloween is the latest tradition that's being reimagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, following advice from Ottawa's medical officer of health that this isn't a year to go trick-or-treating.

Zain and Rosie Charania said they normally look forward to trick-or-treating with their friends in Barrhaven but know this Halloween will be different, like so many other things.

Zain, 8, already had his pirate costume picked out.

"I usually go with my friends and then we [go] door-to-door around our neighbourhood. I really will miss that," he said.

His sister Rosie, who turns six this weekend, said trick-or-treating is her favourite part of Halloween, though she is still focusing on the bright side.

"We can have candy, but we just can't go trick-or-treat," she said. 

WATCH | A different Halloween in 2020:

Despite disappointment with no trick-or-treating this year, Ottawa families are working to come up with new ways to make Halloween fun. 1:34

Their mom, Neelam Charania, said they're going to set up a haunted house in the basement within hidden treats for the kids and walk around the neighbourhood to see decorations on houses.

Those are some of the alternatives Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is suggesting for celebrating the holiday while limiting the risks.

Hope for some 'normal'

Janette Raven, a mother and healthcare worker, said she was disappointed with the recommendations and saw Halloween as an activity that could've gone ahead safely with precautions.

Kids go house to house while trick-or-treating in Vancouver, British Columbia on Thursday, October 31, 2019. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued a lengthy list of dos and don'ts when it comes to having a safe Halloween this year but hasn't ruled out trick-or-treating. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Raven said she planned to wear a mask and sanitize her hands in front of her visitors before handing out candy, to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

"If kids can go in a classroom of 20 to 30 people, why can't we safely do trick-or-treating with our children and at least give them some hope of things going back to normal?" Raven wondered.

Nick Hemm, manager of the Spirit Halloween store on Innes Road, said there has been a slight dip in sales this year — especially when it comes to adult costumes.

"If you love Halloween, you love Halloween," Hemm said. "[For] decor and decorations it's probably been our best year ever."

We talk to costume designer Sarah Waghorn about the best costumes for kids to wear at school and for photoshoots around the house to celebrate Halloween while being COVID-safe. 9:05

Stay within your household

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said there is a risk someone could spread the virus in the group they trick-or-treat with or during doorstep interactions.

"I recommend that people stay with the members of their household, that you look at ways to have candy for kids in your household, in a different way. Dress up, share costumes with pictures, do these things more virtually," she said.

"There's lots of fun to be had. People need to have fun right now and dressing up is one of those great things. I love that."

WATCH | The risks of trick-or-treating:

Vera Etches, medical officer of health, says the city’s high rate of infection means that going door-to-door for Halloween isn’t recommended this year. 0:52

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday trick-or-treating could be adapted to make it safer, but added that she was speaking generally, and not necessarily about red zones like Ottawa — a point echoed by Etches.

Ottawa is currently considered a COVID-19 hot spot, with OPH reporting more than 100 new cases on a near-daily basis. Per capita, the city currently has the highest rate of transmission in the province.

Mayor Jim Watson urged parents to think "long and hard" about taking their kids beyond their own household on Halloween. 

"A lot of people are dancing around this because nobody wants to be the Grinch that stole Halloween," Watson said.

"I'm not going to open the door and offer candy, simple as that. We're in this serious pandemic."

With files from Radio-Canada's Jean-François Poudrier

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