Traditional Halloween, Remembrance Day “strongly discouraged” by MOH

By Kaitlyn Clark

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, has recommended endemic areas avoid traditional Halloween activities and instead “consider alternative ways to celebrate.” While his request focused on Toronto, Peel, York, and Ottawa areas, Haldimand Norfolk’s local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, says area residents should be finding similar alternative celebrations.

“Every person wants to give their children the best childhood possible and that includes Halloween … but I think in the context of the pandemic I would strongly recommend that people avoid it,” said Nesathurai. “If people elect not to take the public health advice and participate in traditional trick-or-treating, there are things that one can do to reduce the risk, but my preference would be that people not engage.”

He recommended that people both avoid going from house to house and avoid handing out candy, along with gathering for any kind of party with those outside the household, whether meeting in a private residence or in public venues: “In some ways Halloween is an adult event as well, and we would also discourage those kinds of gatherings or activities.”

“I can understand why people are fatigued by the public health measures…. It’s been a long eight months and it doesn’t look like it’s going to ease up. We’re going to have to continue this into 2021,” said Nesathurai. “What we’re really trying to do is break the chain of transmission, so it  doesn’t travel from a young person to an older person to someone who lives in a nursing or retirement home.”

“I am concerned about the increasing number of cases,” said Nesathurai about the slight uptick of new cases in Haldimand and Norfolk in recent weeks, along with the larger increases in nearby communities that residents may be travelling between regularly. Neighbouring Six Nations has closed its schools for the remainder of the year after seven positive cases came in on October 16 alone, bringing their active cases to nearly 30. The decision is to be reassessed in December as to whether or not the schools will reopen in January. Haldimand Norfolk had 11 active cases October 20, but that dropped back to seven as of press time. Provincially, Ontario averaged about 747.4 new cases per day in the week of October 12-18.

Instead of traditional Halloween activities, Nesathuai suggested, “Part of Halloween is getting dressed up in a costume, so one could engage in interactions in a costume in some sort of virtual format. There’s nothing to preclude families from dressing up to have a search for candy in their own home.”

Halloween isn’t the only activity that Nesathurai is recommending people alter as he looks forward to Remembrance Day. Provincial guidelines currently only allow for 25 people to gather outdoors at most, and even fewer indoors, which means many ceremonies that would normally take place cannot accept the usual number of attendees.

“The vast majority of veterans are of senior status and we want to be particularly cautious not to have an outbreak of COVID that’s associated to Remembrance Day activities because it’s the elderly and older people that suffer disproportionately from a mortality point of view, so we really want to try to restrict numbers from participating in person,” said Nesathurai. “I would really prefer people participate virtually or in other formats than congregating in large groups.”

The Haldimand Press will provide an overview of Haldimand Legions’ plans for Remembrance Day next week.

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