Trick-or-treating in New Brunswick can be safe despite coronavirus: epidemiologist

WATCH: COVID-19 nearly eliminated the long-standing practice of door knocking in the provincial election. Now some areas of New Brunswick are turning a wary eye to Halloween.

Seamstress and costume designer Barbara Horsman of Salisbury, N.B., has been obsessed with Halloween all of her life.

“The little girl is still in me that wants to play dress-up,” she said.

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But the adult in Horsman is feeling a little apprehensive about opening up her home to trick or treaters amid the novel coronavirus.

“I am not sure which way to go,” she said.

Horsman is not alone in wondering if it is safe to let trick-or-treaters come to her door during a pandemic.

Last week the council for the town of Woodstock, N.B., voted unanimously to ban the door-to-door tradition amid concerns over the spread of the virus.

According to Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa’s Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, trick-or-treating without physical distancing is risky.

That’s especially true in parts of the country where the number of cases is on the rise.

“I don’t think it is worth the risk to do it the traditional way. But if you want to add on a layer of distancing, I think it can be made quite safe,” said Deonandan.

If trick-or-treaters maintain physical distancing while going door to door, it greatly reduces the risk of transmission, he said.

“If you want to have the element of sharing candy, so make it safer with some distancing in place. Some people have suggested leaving some candy outside at the end of your driveway,” said Deonandan.

Since the surface transmission is rare with COVID-19, he said, the risk of contracting the virus from candy wrappers is low.

“Just don’t eat your candy until you have washed it or taken the wrapper out and wash your hands first.”

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He said that staying away from community candy is the safest option as well as sticking within your family and friend bubbles

“That is what we did when the kids were little. We would only go to select houses of friends or family that we knew and we just kept it to that handful,” said Horsman who is will undecided if she will hand out candy on Oct. 31.

Halloween is falling on a Saturday this year, and Deonandan says when it comes to transmission, it’s the teens and adults who tend to carry on the festivities long after the trick-or-treaters have gone to bed that gives him the biggest fright.

“Parties, in general, are these mass affairs,” he said, “with a lot of alcohol and a lot of strangers,” which he said are like super-spreading events in waiting.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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