Guidelines for Safe Gatherings this Fall and Winter - Halloween and Remembrance Day

There are many holidays and celebrations throughout the fall and winter months, such as Thanksgiving, Halloween and other cultural and religious holidays. These events often feature social gatherings and shared meals in indoor settings, larger public events, or travel, all of which are risk factors that have the potential to increase the number of COVID-19 cases in our region.

Celebrating Halloween Safely

While most people are now vaccinated against COVID-19, the upcoming Halloween gatherings could still cause a spike in cases as they involve several of the risk factors mentioned above. Gatherings between vaccinated and partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals have the potential to infect several family members, including children under 12 who can’t currently get vaccinated against COVID-19. This could lead to outbreaks in schools in the weeks following Halloween. Taking the measures below will help limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission amongst your loved ones.

Guidelines for Safe Gatherings This Halloween

In order to avoid a spike in COVID-19 case counts following Halloween, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is strongly recommending that residents take the following measures:

  • Gatherings must respect the limits set out in the Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step, meaning you cannot have more than 25 people indoors or 100 people outdoors.
  • When gathering OUTDOORS:
    • If everyone at the gathering is fully vaccinated, face coverings and physical distancing are not necessary.
    • If there are individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown, participants should wear a face covering if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • When gathering INDOORS:
    • If everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated, participants may remove their face covering if everyone is comfortable.
    • If there are individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown, participants should wear a face covering and physically distance.

If you are immunocompromised, at higher-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19, or simply feel it is right for you, you can wear a face covering and physically distance, regardless of the setting.

Additional Tips for Safe Gatherings

  • If you’re unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if they’re mild.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
  • Cover your cough when not wearing a face covering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been identified by Public Health as a high-risk close contact of a known COVID-19 case.

General COVID-19 Safety Tips

  • Virtual gatherings or events remain the safest option, especially if there are unvaccinated people or persons whose vaccination status is unknown.
  • Outdoor gatherings or events are safer than indoor ones.
  • Smaller gatherings have a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Remember: Knowing someone does not reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Additional Guidelines for HOSTING an In-Person Gathering This Halloween

  • Whenever possible, try using outdoor spaces.
  • Provide all the supplies needed to help prevent COVID-19 transmission, such as hand sanitizer, soap and water.
  • If possible, open windows.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Ask guests not to attend if they have COVID-19 symptoms (even mild ones).
  • Keep a list of guests in case Public Health needs it for contact tracing.
  • If you serve food or drinks at your party:
    • Wash your hands before and often during preparation and serving.
    • Have everyone wash their hands before and after eating.

Additional Guidelines for ATTENDING an In-Person Gathering This Halloween

  • Avoid attending any gatherings if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, even if they’re mild.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often during the event.
  • If you are immunocompromised, at higher-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19, consider participating in the gathering virtually.

Guidelines for Trick-or-Treaters and Those Handing Out Treats

Guidelines for TRICK-OR-TREATERS:

If you choose to trick-or-treat door-to-door:

  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if mild.
  • Trick-or-treat outdoors as much as possible.
  • Do not wear a costume mask over your face covering, as the costume mask can make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider building a face covering into your costume.
  • When approaching doorsteps, take turns one at a time. Line up two metres apart if waiting.
  • Avoid high-touch surfaces and objects (If you can, knock instead of pushing doorbells).
  • Do not sing or shout for treats.
  • Keep interactions with those handing out treats brief.
  • Use hand sanitizer often (before and after handling your face covering, when you’re back home from trick-or-treating, and before and after handling or eating treats).
  • It is not necessary to clean or disinfect pre-packaged treats.
  • If participating in indoor activities, maintain physical distancing and wear a face covering.

Guidelines for THOSE HANDING OUT TREATS:

  • Do not open your door or participate in other Halloween festivities if you have symptoms.
  • Keep interactions with trick-or-treaters brief.
  • Wear a face covering if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Only give out purchased and packaged treats.
  • Do not ask trick-or-treaters to sing or shout for their treats.
  • Clean your hands often throughout the evening with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

Guidelines for Recognizing Remembrance Day

When attending a Remembrance Day memorial event:

  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if mild.
  • Wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.
  • If you are immunocompromised, at higher-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19, consider participating in the memorial virtually.

If you sell poppies in-person:

  • Wear a face covering.
  • Clean your hands with hand sanitizer regularly.
  • Consider not selling if you are immunocompromised, at higher-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.
Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario