Halloween 2020 – a mixed bag of responses in a time of COVID-19

The Halloween spirit is alive and well in New Westminster – despite COVID-19.

The Massey Victory Heights Residents’ Association wanted to give residents something fun and positive to do this Halloween season, so it decided to hold its first-ever Halloween house decorating contest.

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“It’s really to engage people, to get people out and enjoy the spirit of Halloween,” said Kathleen Carlsen, vice president of the residents’ association. “They can go anytime – walk through the neighbourhood, drive through the neighbourhood.”

The group is inviting citizens to visit the neighbourhood and check out the 13 entries in this year’s contest. Between Oct. 26 and 31, people can vote online for Scariest House, Funniest House, Most Original House and Best Overall Theme.

“You don’t have to be a Massey Victory Heights resident – anybody can vote. We thought if we started doing this it would get kids and families out and they would check out different areas,” Carlsen said. “Even now, we don’t know what Halloween is going to look like. We don’t know if people are going to be handing things out.”

A list of participating homes can be found at www.masseyvictoryheights.com.

Queen’s Park is normally one of Metro Vancouver’s hot spots for trick or treaters, with hundreds of kids descending on the neighbourhood on Halloween night.

“Some are participating, but with some obvious restrictions, and others are opting out for this year,” said Gail North, president of the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association. “We made a decision to both post and send out to our email list the info from Dr. Henry on how to stay safe on Halloween, along with a few words that this year individuals and households will be making decisions based on their level of comfort.”

The City of New Westminster is hosting a variety of Halloween-themed events (all COVID-friendly) for children, families and teens, including a scary movie and a spooky youth skate, and socially-distanced activities at the Queensborough Community Centre and the New Westminster Museum. Details about the city’s Halloween Happenings 2020 are found at www.newwestcity.ca (search for Halloween 2020).

Steve Kellock, the city’s senior manager of recreation, said the city’s programs and services may look a little different this year – for example you need to register in advance –  these changes are to ensure that everyone has a safe experience that meets the guidelines set out by health officials.

“Our staff look forward to providing some of the community’s favourite Halloween activities, re-imagined with social distancing and safety in mind,” he said.

What do the experts say?

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has recommended that people skip Halloween parties – big or small – this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But the BCCDC also serves up some suggestions for making trick or treating a fun – but safe – activity.

It’s recommended that residents who are giving out treats: hand out only sealed, pre-packaged treats; provide individual treats rather than offering a shared bowl; and wear a non-medical masks that cover their nose and mouth when handing out treats. It’s also recommended that residents spend more time outside than inside, if possible, which could include standing outside their door to hand out treats so kids won’t need to touch the doorbell.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is also recommending folks get creative when handing out treats, such as using tongs or a baking sheet, or making a “candy slide” to provide more space. It also suggests that residents should clean and disinfect doorbells, knobs, handrails and other high-touch surfaces often during the evening if they’re unable to sit outside to hand out treats.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also provide a variety of tips to help folks celebrate Halloween safely this year:

* Trick or treat in your local neighbourhood.

* Trick or treat in a small social group (“stick to six”) and leave space between your group and other groups to reduce crowding on stairs and sidewalks.

* Wash your hands before you go out, when you get home and before eating treats. If you’re eating treats on the go, keep hand sanitizer with you.

* If you do choose to host or attend a small party, keep it within your social group. You should “stick to six” attendees who you know, avoid props (such as smoke machines) that can cause coughing, be outside more than inside, and avoid passing around snacks, drinks, smokes, tokes and vapes.

* If you are sick or self-isolating, turn off your porch light and stay at home.

* Try including a non-medical mask or face covering as part of your costume. (Costume masks shouldn’t be worn over non-medical masks or face coverings as it may make it difficult to breathe.)

* Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.

* Respect homes by staying away if the lights are out.

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