Ontario health officials are advising people to use caution as they gather to celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend and to begin to think about how they will celebrate Halloween in a few weeks.
Unlike last year, most Ontarians are now fully vaccinated. But while case numbers have been holding steady at manageable rates for the last few weeks, officials have warned that Ontario’s success remains “fragile.”
With that in mind, the province said Thursday that people are being encouraged to stick to the smallest number of people possible for gatherings, with attendance not exceeding the Step 3 gathering limit of 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
People are also being encouraged to be mindful of ventilation, using outdoor spaces rather than indoor spaces as much as possible; to have handwashing supplies such as soap and hand sanitizer at hand for attendees; to keep a list of guests and contacts; and to ask people not to attend if they feel at all unwell.
“No one should attend Thanksgiving or other social gatherings if they are sick,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters at a briefing Thursday. “Even if people have mild symptoms, please stay home and get tested.”
He said vaccination is the key change that lets the province encourage people to gather safely this year as opposed to staying apart.
“I think an 86.7 per cent immunization rate in Ontario is what’s allowing that to happen,” Moore said. “I think one of the first questions as you move indoors for Thanksgiving events should be: Is everyone here vaccinated?”
Moore said high vaccination rates, coupled with the basic infection-prevention measures the population has learned over the past year, should keep Thanksgiving gatherings safe.
The province said people do not have to mask at indoor gatherings where everyone is vaccinated and feel comfortable. However at gatherings with multiple households where some people are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or where their vaccination status is uncertain, people should still mask indoors.
People should also consider wearing masks at outdoor gatherings where not everyone is fully vaccinated and physical distancing cannot be maintained.
When it comes to Halloween, people are being advised to trick-or-treat outdoors as much as possible, incorporating masks or face coverings into their costumes.
However the province advised that a costume mask should not be worn over a non-medical mask or face covering because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.
People are also being advised not to crowd doorsteps or to shout or sing for treats, and to stay home if they have any symptoms at all, even mild ones.
Interactions should also be kept brief and hand sanitizer should be used often while trick-or-treating, but there is no need to disinfect pre-packaged treats when kids arrive home.
“For the slightly older trick-or-treaters who might be considering attending or throwing a Halloween party, all the guidance that I had previously outlined for Thanksgiving, and other social gatherings applies to you too,” Moore said.
“It bears repeating: If you are sick, even with mild symptoms, you should not be participating in social events like Halloween. We know from experience it is exactly these kinds of events that can lead to spikes in transmission. But provided we do our best to follow the guidelines in place, we can enjoy some well-deserved time with friends and family, while also keeping our community transmission low.”
The province also released a list of holiday-specific tips around COVID-19 safety.
- do not exceed the gathering limit of 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
- have the fewest number of people possible at your gathering
- use outdoor spaces whenever possible
- provide all the necessary supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap and water
- open windows, if possible
- clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces
- ask guests not to attend if they have symptoms, even if they are mild
- make a list of guests attending in case your local public health unit needs it for contact tracing
- remind people of public health advice to follow during the event
- wash your hands before and frequently when preparing and serving food
- have everyone wash their hands before and after eating
- consider participating virtually or not attending the event if you are immunocompromised or at higher risk of severe disease or exposure to COVID-19covid 19
REMEMBRANCE DAY EVENTS
- stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild
- wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained or is required
- wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently
- consider participating virtually or not attending the event if you are immunocompromised or at higher risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19
- stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild
- trick-or-treat outdoors as much as possible
- be creative and build the face covering into your costume. Remember that a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering. A costume mask should not be worn over a non-medical mask or face covering because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.
- do not crowd doorsteps – take turns one at a time
- do not sing or shout for your treats
- keep interactions brief with those giving out treats
- use hand sanitizer often, especially before and after handling your face covering, after touching frequently touched surfaces, when you arrive home from trick-or-treating, and before and after handling or eating treats
- there is no need to clean or disinfect pre-packaged treats
If you choose to give out treats:
- do not participate in Halloween festivities if you have symptoms, even if they are mild
- keep interactions with trick-or-treaters short and encourage them to move along after receiving their treat from you
- consider wearing a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained
- consider including the face covering as part of your costume if you are dressing up
- give out only purchased and packaged treats
- do not ask trick-or-treaters to sing or shout for their treats
- clean your hands often throughout the evening using soap and water or with hand sanitizer