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Saskatoon epidemiologist gives tips on celebrating a safe Halloween this year

·3 min read
With Halloween approaching, parents are wondering how to let their kids celebrate safety.  (ShineTerra/Shutterstock - image credit)
With Halloween approaching, parents are wondering how to let their kids celebrate safety. (ShineTerra/Shutterstock - image credit)

With Halloween coming up, nothing is scarier for some than the chance of contracting COVID-19.

Parents across the province have to figure out how they can safely celebrate with their kids.

Their concern makes sense. According to the province, children 11 and under made up nearly one-third of all the new COVID-19 cases.

As of Saturday, there are 2,307 known active COVID-19 cases in the province and 226 hospitalizations. The health-care system is struggling to keep up with the demand, and Ottawa has sent military nurses to Saskatchewan for help.

Despite the concerns, it's still possible to celebrate a safe Halloween, according to Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan.

Muhajarine spoke with CBC about how to mitigate risk during the spooky season.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

CBC: How would you characterize things right now as we head into Halloween?

Muhajarine: I would say compared to last year, this year's Halloween is more threatening, if I could put it that way, because we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic and we are in a city here in Saskatoon where the case rates, hospitalizations and ICU bed use are among the highest in the province.

We really do need to be very careful sending our kids out there, particularly those kids that are not vaccinated.

What is your suggestion for parents who are feeling a bit of pandemic fatigue and saying, "I want my kids to be able to enjoy this?"

I think that you could still enjoy Halloween, particularly with kids, in a safe manner. I think if you're fully vaccinated you can go trick or treating with your children, incorporate masks into your costumes and keep your distance with everybody else around you.

If you are giving out Halloween candy, only one person should be doing that, using tongs.

Perhaps even prepare Halloween candy kits and put them out where kids can pick them up without interacting in a close manner with you.

You can also have alternative Halloween celebrations. You could have a scavenger hunt in your backyard, and have a few kids over who you are in a bubble with. You can have a pumpkin carving session.

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What about the number of kids who are close contacts and the importance of following isolation orders. You're allowed to go to school, you are allowed to go to daycare, but you're not allowed to do any extracurricular activities. So that would include Halloween, correct?

One of things that we need to do well is the whole, testing, tracing and isolation regimes.

The isolation regimes are sort of all over the place, they are really not standard. If you are symptomatic and you're a close contact you have to stay home, you have to get your PCR test.

But if you're asymptomatic and even if you're a close contact, you're not sure whether you should be isolating or not.

So I think the orders around isolation and tracing has been really overwhelmed during this particular wave.

What about adults? If you're a vaccinated adult and you want to have a Halloween party with other vaccinated adults, is that OK?

I would say keep it to a very small group of four or five people who you know are vaccinated and know are not circulating very much in our community.

You could be fully vaccinated, but also if you're not circulating, if you're not interacting very much out there in the community in general — then you could get together with somebody inside your home.

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