Editorial: Halloween is a litmus test of our community resolve

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Parents of young children concerned about the upcoming ritual that is Halloween can be forgiven if they are confused about what they should allow their children to do this year—especially given the confusing set of messages parents are getting from the powers that be in Ontario.

While Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, has said that, with proper cleaning and other public health measures, children could celebrate Halloween in some fashion, a position echoed by Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, Premier Doug Ford is on the record as saying he would prefer parents not take their children trick or treating this Halloween as the province struggles to keep its COVID-19 case numbers under control. Dr. Tam qualified her support of the vampire and werewolves’ annual meanderings by suggesting hot spots could be an exception and to check with the local health unit. Public Health Sudbury and Districts provides a long list on its website on how to do Halloween safely.

It’s a tough call. There are few events in a young child’s life that resonate more deeply than travelling door-to-door in their community to collect the bountiful harvest of sweets and other goodies that await costumed trick or treaters. Calls to not take Halloween away from children who have already lost so much to this pandemic abound, while even the most generous of elderly neighbours (who likely have memories of various tricks that have taken place down through the generations upon those unwilling to submit to ghoulish extortion) wonder if they should sit with darkened doorways given the very real terror that is resonating through society today—especially for those who are most vulnerable.

But it is plain to see that this virus is going to be with us for quite some time, vaccine not withstanding, and we must find a way forward that everyone can (quite literally) live with. The economic fallout of the COVID-19 virus ensures that its repercussions will be with us for far longer than the pandemic’s actual physical threat.

It is clear from the evidence of those parts of the province which are not “hot spots” (and across the nation, even the globe) that taking adequate precautions can limit the spread dramatically. Handwashing, physical distancing, masks and not taking part in social activities if you have symptoms are likely sufficient to suffice when it comes to keeping community spread under control.

What doesn’t work is complacency.

So, this Halloween, practice safe trick or treating—no matter on which side of the pumpkin you stand.

If you are uncomfortable with handing out treats or meeting hordes of ghosts and goblins at the door, put up a sign to let people know—the tried and true method of keeping the lights off and/or curtains drawn should work as well.

If you are travelling the Halloween trail through the neighbourhood, respect the signs and don’t resort to any tricks if there are no treats—the person behind the door may well be terrified enough.

We can manage to get through this season, and this coming Christmas, if we all work together and keep safety front of mind.