Winnipeg families gear up for Halloween with pandemic guidelines in mind

Some families in Winnipeg are breathing a sigh of relief that this Halloween won’t look quite as scaled down as last year’s did.

Russ Parker said his kids are excited to go out trick-or-treating again, even if it still has to be physically distanced.

“The kids really missed Halloween last year, being able to run around in their costumes,” he said.

“They’re really looking forward to it.”

Parker’s nine-year-old son, Elliot, can’t wait to hit the streets dressed as a Dementor, the ghostly creature from the Harry Potter universe that feeds on human happiness.

He was sick last Halloween, which meant he had to watch the festivities unfold from his window — but it wasn’t all bad.

“Some of my friends gave me candy, like they put it on my doorstep,” Elliot said.

Elliot Parker says he’s excited to trick-or-treat dressed as a Dementor from the Harry Potter universe this year. (Thomas Asselin/Radio-Canada)

Sheena Stemler said she’s feeling safer bringing her kids trick-or-treating this year. Her family is also spending the week going to Halloween-themed events at sites across Winnipeg.

“We’re trying to really take full advantage of all of the activities that couldn’t happen last year,” Stemler said.

Pandemic precautions remain

Manitoba’s COVID-19 situation this fall is a little different from where the province was a year ago, especially with more than 80 per cent of those eligible now fully vaccinated — though kids under 12 still aren’t able to get their shots yet.

But public health recommendations for Halloween activities in the province haven’t changed much for this year.

“[It’s still about] the fundamentals and following the public health orders that are in place,” chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said on a call with reporters this week.

For gatherings like Halloween parties, it means attendance will be limited if one or more people who show up are eligible for vaccination but haven’t yet gotten their shots. 

And for trick-or-treaters, the province is recommending only going out with a small group of people you live with or a few close friends you normally spend time with, according to a set of guidelines posted on its website.

While that’s along the same lines as the guidance the province gave last year, some people — including Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and several health experts — cautioned against going out for trick-or-treating in 2020, even though it was technically allowed.

But that’s not the case this time around. Trick-or-treating is actually safer than some other Halloween activities because it happens outdoors, Roussin said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Julie Lajoie, a research associate in medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba.

“Last year people were really smart and found different ways to give candies, with chutes for the candies, BBQ tongs,” Lajoie said.

Julie Lajoie is a research associate in medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba. (Thomas Asselin/Radio-Canada)

And if everyone is wearing a mask, keeping a distance from other groups and avoiding things like singing and yelling, the risk of transmission can be cut down even more, she said.

“Just to try to avoid the virus [having a chance] to spread,” Lajoie said. “It’s outside and it can be done safely.”

Some of the other recommendations the province made last year are still in place.

That includes wearing a mask and using strategies like handing out candy with tongs to help maintain physical distancing.

For people like Ron and Lynn Livingston, who go all out decorating their yard for Halloween every year, it’s exciting that more kids might be going door-to-door this year.

The couple has already adorned their front yard with giant spider webs, pumpkins and skeletons.

Lynn Livingston and her husband, Ron, go all out decorating their yard for Halloween every year. They’re excited more kids could be going door-to-door next weekend than they saw last year. (Thomas Asselin/Radio-Canada)

And they still plan to add inflatable characters and a graveyard display by the time Halloween rolls around next weekend.

“We just wanted to make sure that kids have a good holiday. This is difficult times for everyone,” Lynn said.

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