Federal parties rake in millions despite pandemic

Parties rake in millions

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't stopped federal political parties from raking in millions of dollars in donations.

Financial reports filed Friday with Elections Canada show that all the main parties — except for the governing Liberals — raised more money in the third quarter of this year than they did in 2018, the last non-election year.

Indeed, the Conservatives boasted that they had their best ever third-quarter fundraising results for a non-election year.

The party raked in nearly $5.7 million from July to the end of September — almost $1 million more than the Conservatives raised during the same period in 2018.

Almost $464,000 more was pulled in by candidates in the Conservative leadership race, which ended with the selection of Erin O'Toole in late August.

By contrast, the Liberals pulled in $3.1 million in the third quarter this year, about $700,000 less than the same period in 2018.

The NDP raised $1.3 million, up from $862,000 in 2018.

The Green party pulled in just over $813,000, a jump of more than $250,000 over 2018.

Another $237,000 was raised in this year's third quarter by candidates in the Green leadership race, which culminated Oct. 3 with the selection of Annamie Paul.

The Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, took in almost $300,000 in the third quarter, a big jump over 2018 when it raised less than $25,000.

All the parties shut down in-person fundraising events after COVID-19 began sweeping Canada in mid-March. Second-quarter fundraising dipped as a result.

The Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens all took advantage of the emergency wage subsidy program introduced by the Liberal government to encourage employers to keep workers on their payrolls during the pandemic.

The Conservatives have since stopped collecting the 75 per cent subsidy and have said they'll pay back whatever they received.

The Liberals also stopped applying for the subsidy at the end of August but have not promised to reimburse.

The NDP and Greens have indicated they intend to continue taking advantage of the benefit to avoid layoffs.


Conservatives must take inequality seriously, O'Toole says

O'Toole aims at elites

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole took aim Friday at what he called financial elites, saying his own party needs to take inequality more seriously and to support ongoing emergency aid.

He used the midday speech to a largely business audience to say that how the country creates wealth needs to be reframed, or else "less reasonable" forces will do it instead.

"Too much power is in the hands of corporate and financial elites who are happy to outsource jobs abroad," O'Toole warned the Canadian Club of Toronto, according to his text.

"It's now expected of a shareholder to ask a CEO: 'Why are we paying a worker in Oshawa $30 an hour when we could be paying one in China 50 cents an hour?' And while that shareholder gets richer, Canada gets poorer."

O'Toole blamed the Liberals for favouring elites over workers, trade deals over domestic jobs.

The Opposition leader gave the broad strokes of how the Tories would tackle an economic divide widened by the pandemic, with higher-income earners faring better than low-wage workers.

O'Toole said government policy should focus on building "solidarity," not just wealth, and talked about the need to intervene in the economy when good outcomes aren't shared, or when it was in the national interest.

He also a mirrored a call from Liberal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, for ongoing aid to combat the health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

"I don't like deficits. But the alternatives were much worse. We had to do what needed to be done," O'Toole said.

"This is not something I would support in normal times. But we are facing more than a health crisis. We are facing the greatest economic crisis of our lifetime."

In the question-and-answer session after his speech, O'Toole added that he doesn't support the depth of the deficit the Liberals have created.

Freeland's department produced an update Friday on how much the federal government has borrowed to supply that aid so far.

The federal deficit hit $170.5 billion through the first five months of the government's fiscal year. The deficit figure from April to August compared to a $5.2-billion deficit recorded in the same period one year earlier, thanks to billions of dollars in spending on emergency aid.

The monthly fiscal monitor from the Finance Department showed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments at $58.8 billion and the federal wage subsidy program at $37.4 billion over the five-month stretch.

A further $19.2 billion in spending over that time included money for a business loan program the Liberals have since widened and a rent-relief program for businesses the government plans to revamp.

The deficit numbers landed just after Statistics Canada reported the pace of economic growth slowed in August, and offered a preliminary estimate that it had slowed further in September. If the figures hold, the growth in gross domestic product for the the third quarter would be about 10 per cent.

O'Toole said federal spending should focus on preserving Canada's economic potential.

"That should be our approach, growing the GDP, having more people working, and getting a balance to our fiscal situation — a balance over the next decade — ramp down program spending in a way that's fair and equitable," O'Toole said.

"If people aren't working when they come off CERB, we're going to see a prolonged debt crisis in Canada, and we're gonna see more capital leave our country rather than come to it."

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was the Liberal government's $500-a-week relief payment to people who lost work in the first months of the pandemic. Its replacement, known as the Canada Recovery Benefit, has paid out $1.48 billion to over 917,000 people since it launched. A further $1.15 billion has been paid in EI benefits among the nearly 1.6 million claims approved out of the 1.8 million claims filed.

The figures provide a partial view of the labour force ahead of next week when Statistics Canada will release the unemployment rate for October. The rate was nine per cent in September.

Freeland, in a speech of her own to Montreal's chamber of commerce, said the Liberals will soon introduce legislation to provide more economic aid, including extending the wage subsidy to next summer, and help for businesses subject to lockdown orders.

"We urge all parliamentarians to join us in approving these critical measures," she said, noting the support for income-support changes enacted last month.

"I hope we can all take the same Team Canada approach with these support measures for our small businesses."

Canada seeks to increase immigration over next three years even as pandemic rages on

Immigration increase sought

Canada is seeking to admit upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents in the next three years, a target the federal government says is crucial to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

But how realistic those numbers are in the face of closed borders, restrictions on international travel and a sharp economic downtown, remain to be seen.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino insisted Friday he was optimistic.

"Immigrants are putting food on the tables of Canadians. They're taking care of our seniors, and they are driving the economy of tomorrow," he said outside a downtown Ottawa restaurant whose owner immigrated to Canada several years ago.

"At no time in recent history has that been more important than in the context of this pandemic. And so what this plan does is it lays out a future vision for growth, economic recovery through immigration."

While the local restaurant may be a success story, it sits at the corner of a downtown Ottawa intersection where it is clear the pandemic has taken a toll on the economy: coffee shops, shawarma joints, boutiques and other stores and services catering to downtown workers have all closed their doors.

A study by Statistics Canada released in August showed that in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants to Canada were more likely than Canadian-born workers to lose their jobs, mainly because they had held them for less time and, as a whole, are overrepresented in lower-wage employment. That includes in service-sector jobs.

Mendicino said Friday the economy can and will absorb more newcomers because they create jobs.

Some observers also suggested the planned arrivals aren't enough to meet anticipated demand in certain sectors.

The government is aiming for 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. About 60 per cent will be economic immigrants.

There needs to be a realignment of how the government selects immigrants for the post-pandemic economy, said Dennis Darby, the president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, in a statement.

Removing barriers to how many temporary foreign workers can be admitted per facility, and making it easier for provinces to directly recruit, should be options, he said.

"Manufacturers are increasingly using immigration to supplement their workforce but there are not enough immigrants to meet the demand," he said.

The shuttered stores of Ottawa's downtown also reflect the fact that thousands of civil servants have largely transitioned to working from home, which has also affected the immigration system, with its reliance on paper application and in-person interviews.

That's not just a problem in Ottawa but around the world, as the immigration offices in embassies and consulates have largely closed or curtailed services as well.

It's led to a growing backlog in applications and doubts about whether even with the targets, the system has the capacity to sign off on new arrivals.

Mendicino said immigration has managed to continue through the pandemic, but more resources will be added to try to ease the crunch, and digital options continue to be applied.

The pandemic has driven down immigration to Canada by as much as 60 per cent in some categories. Though many billed the release of next year's target numbers as an increase, it is not clear that will happen in reality.

When the government sets a target, it also lays out a range of planned admissions. The low end of the plan for 2021 is 300,000 and the high end is 410,000.

That lower-end target is actually below the low end of the number of immigrants, pre-pandemic, the Liberals had planned to admit in 2021, pointed out NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.

"The Liberals demonstrate a lack of conviction in their targets and left the door wide open for immigration levels to decrease," she said in a statement.

It's also not clear how unused room is being carried over.

For example: the Liberals had planned to admit 49,000 refugees this year. Next year, according to Friday's plan, they are aiming for 59,500.

While that looks like an increase of 10,000, the number of refugees who have actually arrived in the first eight months of this year was down nearly 60 per cent from 2019 arrivals.

So it's possible that the 2021 figures merely incorporate the shortfall from this year, as opposed to being an overall increase. Mendicino wasn't clear when asked about that issue Friday.

Either way, that Canada even continues to open its arms is welcome, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency's Canadian representative.

"In an era of travel restrictions and closed borders, refugees continue to be welcomed by Canadians," she said in a statement.

"The significance of this lifeline and the deep generosity of Canadians cannot be overstated."


'Panicky pandemic publishing' of COVID-19 research erodes trust in science: report

Panic pandemic publishing

Publishing weak, careless and sometimes fake research on the novel coronavirus is eroding trust in science, leading people to ignore public health advice, a new report from the Royal Society of Canada warns.

The society's COVID-19 task force report says scientists, public health officials, governments and journalists all must do better, and not allow the sense of urgency created by the pandemic to undermine long-held standards and ethics in their respected professions.

The Royal Society is an elite body of about 2,000 scholars and public intellectuals, meant to recognize and promote leading-edge research and the best thinking on important problems.

"One of the fastest ways to create confusion and lose public trust is to publish and publicize weak, careless or, worse, fraudulent research," the report says.

The report warns that the "panicky pandemic publishing" of research on COVID-19 is harmful when it takes shortcuts around the tried-and-true safeguards to ensure published science is both peer-reviewed and accurately portrayed.

And it is happening more frequently in the pandemic, with one review finding circulation of COVID-19-related research before peer-review is complete — known as pre-prints — is happening 15 times more often than with non-pandemic related research.

Before the pandemic, the average time between a researcher's submitting work and its being published was more than 100 days, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, that period has shrunk to just six days.

These published reports are often being used by public health agencies and politicians to guide their advice to the public, and overhyped news releases are enticing media to cover them heavily. It leads to confusing messaging when the reports contradict each other or are later debunked.

The well-known case of hydroxychloroquine is one of the most egregious examples, the report found. The drug, used often to treat malaria and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, was tested by French researchers on COVID-19 patients, and a pre-print was produced declaring it to show some positive impacts. The study was immediately widely criticized as flawed.

Still it has been cited over 1,700 times, spurred millions of dollars in further research into the drug, and was picked up by celebrities like U.S. President Donald Trump and Tesla founder Elon Musk, driving further media and public interest.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late March issued an emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine to be used for COVID-19.

A subsequent study published in The Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals in the world, that found hydroxychloroquine could be harmful instead of helpful, was also later debunked and retracted.

But the harm from the reckless use of the science was profound, causing everything from shortages of the drug for patients who actually needed it to doctors overprescribing it.

A New York Times investigation found prescriptions for the drug went up 2,000 per cent in March compared to the same month in 2019.

It also appears the confluence of events had tragic consequences.

Hydroxychloroquine is known to cause heart arrhythmias, and as adverse events piled up and evidence against its benefits for COVID-19 mounted, the FDA first clarified its approval and then revoked it.

An analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration database shows more than 100 Americans died in the first half of 2020 after taking hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 reasons.

The Royal Society report also says science is always evolving but in the pandemic, the public is paying more attention and seeing that evolution happen in real-time. That too, is causing confusion, as public health advice is based on the best available evidence.

When that advice changes — as it did in Canada for the use of non-medical face masks — it can make the public skeptical and reluctant to follow the advice.

They said public health officials need to be as honest as possible about the weakness of evidence that is guiding their current decisions.

Researchers also must be careful not to overhype their findings, and to follow the conversations about their research in the media and the public and correct misinterpretations they see.

CBSA officer: Handing over paper with Meng's device codes a 'heart-wrenching' mistake

Meng codes a 'mistake'

The Canada Border Services Agency officer who said he erroneously handed over a piece of paper with Meng Wanzhou's electronic device codes to the RCMP called the move a "heart-wrenching" mistake in court Friday.

Scott Kirkland, under cross-examination of Meng defence lawyer Mona Duckett, said it was not the plan to hand the information over to police, adding that the error was made when items collected from the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive were transferred to RCMP jurisdiction after the CBSA completed its admissibility exam on Meng.

"I'm telling you that it's heart-wrenching that I made that mistake," Kirkland said, adding that he would have definitely corrected the situation had he known he unwittingly handed the paper over.

Court heard that the error was not discovered until January 2019 - more than a month after Meng's arrest at YVR on a U.S. extradition request for fraud and money laundering.

Kirkland also said Meng did not want to give her code initially when asked by CBSA inspectors, but officers did not force her to turn the passwords over. Rather, the Huawei executive decided to do so after the CBSA explained the potential need to examine her devices for a border-entry admissibility examination.

The CBSA officer also challenged Duckett's assertion that the agency seized the devices, noting that - in legal terms - the agency was collecting the phones for examination only.

"Did we seize the devices? Not on legal terms," Kirkland said. "We are taking it under the pretense that we may examine them. We didn't examine them, but we would not have collected the passwords if there wasn't a pretense to examine."

Duckett wrapped up the morning session by again criticizing the lack of notes taken by Kirkland for the inspection, noting that CBSA officers had the duty to provide reliable records that may be used in court to assist in specific cases - as is the case with the Meng extradition arrest.

The hearing continues later today.

Canadians need to cut contacts by a quarter to control COVID-19 outbreak: Tam

Contacts should be cut: Tam

New federal projections suggest that Canadians need to cut a quarter of their contacts to keep the COVID-19 outbreak from resurging.

The modelling indicates that at current rates of in-person socializing, Canada could see COVID-19 case counts increase to8,000 per day come early December.

Public health officials say a 25 per cent reduction in contacts could control the spread of the virus in most locations.

Canada's chief public health officer says further restrictions and closures may be needed in communities where the virus is surging.

Dr. Theresa Tam says more regions have reported increased rates of infection over the past two weeks, with 26 Indigenous communities reporting two or more active COVID-19 cases.

The forecasts predict that Canada's total COVID-19 count could reach 262,000 cases and 10,400 deaths cases by Nov. 8.

Manitoba reports record COVID-19 spike, shuts some businesses

New set of virus restrictions

The Manitoba government is ordering many businesses in the Winnipeg region to close after a record increase in COVID-19 cases.

The province is reporting 480 new COVID-19 cases — more than double the previous daily record.

Starting Monday, bars and restaurants in the Winnipeg region will only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery.

Movie theatres and concert halls will be closed and most retail stores will be limited to 25 per cent capacity.

Elective and non-urgent surgeries in the Winnipeg region are being cancelled, and hospital visits across Manitoba are being suspended.

Case numbers in the province have been rising for several days, which is testing the capacity of intensive care units in hospitals.

Sentencing hearing for Alberta woman who shot husband

Son helped dump body

Crown and defence lawyers say an Alberta woman who pleaded guilty to shooting her husband and dumping his body in a slough should spend up to 18 years in prison.

Helen Naslund pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter in the September 2011 shooting of 49-year old Miles Naslund on a farm near Holden, Alta.

The couple's son, Neil Naslund, pleaded guilty to offering an indignity to human remains.

The mother and son were initially charged with first-degree murder

Both are in court in Edmonton today for sentencing hearings.

An agreed statement of facts says there had been a domineering pattern of abuse in the marriage.

It says Helen Naslund shot her husband twice in the back of his head with a 22-calibre pistol when he was in bed.

The statement of facts says she and her son put the body in a metal truckbox and used a boat to dump it in a swampy area.

It says they threw the gun in another slough and buried the victim's car in a farmer's field.

RCMP release images of men near fish plant that was torched in lobster dispute

Lobster fire suspects on cam

Nova Scotia RCMP released images today showing two men walking away from a fish plant on the same night it was burned to the ground amid an escalating dispute over an Indigenous lobster fishery.

Yarmouth County RCMP are describing the two men as persons of interest.

Police say the images were captured Oct. 16 outside the plant in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., around the same time the suspicious fire broke out near midnight.

The plant was storing lobster caught by the Sipekne'katik First Nation, which attracted national attention last month when it started setting lobster traps in St. Marys Bay before the start of the federally regulated fishing season.

The Mi'kmaq band has said it has the treaty right to fish, hunt and gather when and where they want without a licence, as spelled out in a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision.

In security video footage, the two men can be seen walking through the darkness along a gravel path beside what appears to be a large building flanked by refrigeration gear, crates and other equipment.

A day after the fire was reported, police confirmed they were aware of a person of interest with life-threatening injuries believed to be related to the fire.

Canadian scientists link blood biomarkers to severity of COVID in patients

COVID research advance

Canadian immunologists say they’re finding telltale markers in patients' blood that help predict the severity of COVID-19 and could lead to more targeted treatments.

David Kelvin,a Dalhousie University professor of immunology, is co-author of a studythat draws links between severity of the illness and the presence of large amounts of the virus's genetic material — ribonucleic acid, or RNA — in blood samples.

He and Spanish scientist Jesus Bermejo-Martin of the Institute of Biomedical Investigationof Salamanca led a group of 36 medical researchers tracking patients coming into Spanish hospital wards and ERs, and looking for about 30 so-called "biomarkers” in their blood plasma.

The work occurred during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.

Though less publicized than research on vaccines, biomarkers are seen as key to tracking and predicting illness, and they can identify which proteins are being released that prevent the immune system from coping.

The study, which has been published online and is currently in the final stages of peer review for the journal Critical Care, concludes that the presence of the virus's RNA in blood is "associated to critical illness."

Kelvin says the work could lead to partnering with a pharmaceutical firm to develop standard and rapid blood-testing looking for the genetic marker in patients who test positive.

"A test is what we're hoping for," he said in an interview this week. "We need to develop ways to quickly know who should be placed in a ward, who should go in (intensive care) and who is well enough to go back home."

While North American hospitals often do test for the presence of the virus’s genetic material in the blood of severely ill COVID-19 patients, Kelvin says more rapid,standardized tests are needed for patients when they arrive in hospital.

"We're facing a huge surge in patients, and there are a limited number of beds," he said. "If we want to allocate those beds, we should tie them to those who have this genetic material circulating in their blood."

Thearticle says the Spanish-based study is among the largest of its kind in the world to date, with 250 patients included — 50 outpatients, 100 patients hospitalized in various wards and 100 critically ill patients. Blood samples were collected within 24 hours of patients being admitted, with a series of followup tests.

The paper found 78 per cent of critically ill patients had the genetic material as a biomarker, compared to just a quarter of the general ward patients and two per cent of outpatients.

Kelvin said his study also noted the presence of three molecules associated with repressing the immune system in the critically ill patients studied, a finding that other scientists can pursue.

There seemed to be a link between the trio of molecules – Interleukin-10, Interleukin-1 RA and PDL-1 – and the presence of the virus's genetic material in the blood, he said. The molecules occur naturally in the body and are used clinically to treat autoimmune diseases.

The detection of the molecules in critically sick patients comes on the heels of similar findings by British scientists.

Immunologist Mark Cameron, who worked with Kelvin studying the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto, says the findings are helpful on several levels.

In the short term, the linking of the virus's RNA with critical illness helps clinicians in diagnosing severity of the illness, said Cameron, a Canadian based at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Meanwhile, identifying proteins that signal the immune system isn't reacting properly can lead to targeted therapies, he added.

"By testing for and identifying biomarkers, you can then find treatments or drugs that can rebalance our immune system,” Cameron said in an interview.

“If we find a biomarker that's up or down and is associated with good or bad outcomes, you have something you can change that can push you towards health rather than worsening illness," he said.

Cameron said often the main treatment for severe COVID-19 is steroids, but his hope is the biomarkers will allow for more precise therapies.

"A steroid is like a sledgehammer . . . . It tamps down the entire immune response and may decrease the things we need in our immune system to fight the virus. So, you want more specific treatments," he said.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Friday Oct. 30

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Oct. 30, 2020:

There are 228,540 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 103,844 confirmed (including 6,214 deaths, 88,442 resolved)

_ Ontario: 73,819 confirmed (including 3,118 deaths, 63,123 resolved)

_ Alberta: 27,042 confirmed (including 318 deaths, 21,803 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 14,109 confirmed (including 262 deaths, 11,449 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 4,894 confirmed (including 62 deaths, 2,423 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 2,990 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 2,258 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,102 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,033 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 341 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 294 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 291 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 282 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 64 confirmed (including 63 resolved)

_ Yukon: 22 confirmed (including 17 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 9 confirmed (including 8 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 228,540 (0 presumptive, 228,540 confirmed including 10,073 deaths, 191,208 resolved)

Trick or Treat? Experts divided on letting kids go out on Halloween due to COVID risk

Spooked over Halloween?

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to creep up in much of the country, some parents are feeling spooked about letting their children trick-or-treat on Halloween.

Should they carry on with the door-to-door tradition, or find a different way to celebrate the eerie annual holiday?

While some infectious disease pediatricians say now is not the time for trick-or-treating, especially in COVID hot spots, others contend that the outdoor nature of the activity makes it fairly low-risk.

Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's School of Public Health, says trick-or-treating should "probably be cancelled this year.''

"We've ... shut down gyms and restaurants (in parts of Ontario and Quebec) to try to control COVID,'' she said. "So I just don't think it's a good idea.''

Areas with few COVID cases will be safer for trick-or-treaters, Banerji says, but having contact with multiple people, regardless of how brief those interactions are, can carry higher risk in cities with larger concentrations of the virus.

Banerji says it will be tough to keep kids -- excited to see their dressed-up counterparts -- from congregating on driveways and sidewalks, which will make it harder for parents accompanying them to maintain a safe distance as well.

"In general it's not high-risk when you're just walking by someone on the street, but when you've got a whole bunch of kids and they're walking together, the risk might go up,'' Banerji said. "And the adults are there too. And they're being exposed to all these different kids.''

Dr. Martha Fulford of McMaster Children's Hospital says the risk of COVID spreading through trick-or-treaters is "very small.''

The outdoor element helps mitigate danger, Fulford says, adding that keeping distance from groups on sidewalks should be easy enough by walking around them.

Still, she suggests safeguards to minimize potential transmission, like getting trick-or-treaters to stick to their own neighbourhoods and making sure kids clean their hands before indulging in their bounty.

Homeowners wary of contracting the virus from costumed kiddos on their porches can find creative ways to hand out candy as well.

Fulford suggests candy handlers sit outside, if weather permits, to avoid having too many fingers pushing doorbells. She doesn't suggest leaving a bulk, self-serve bowl outside, however, since having "multiple tiny hands" reaching in makes that a high-touch surface.

"Use tongs. Get some kind of dispensing thing or build a little slide where you pop the candy in a tube and it pops out the other end for the kids,'' Fulford said.

"We've learned COVID generally is not well-transmitted on surfaces. We don't think there's a problem when we go grocery shopping or anything like that. So sealed candies is not a problem.''

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said earlier this month that trick-or-treating could proceed as long as participants follow physical distancing and other safety protocols. She mentioned handing out treats on a hockey stick, or using pool noodles to separate kids from homeowners at their front doors.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there's no need to shelve trick-or-treating completely, recommending children stay two metres apart and wear cloth masks that can be incorporated into their costumes. The organization says a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask, but layering of masks can cause breathing difficulties and isn't advised.

Fulford says face coverings aren't necessary for children outdoors, but adults accompanying kids on their candy quest can wear them if they're struggling to maintain distance from other groups. If homeowners handing out candy feel safer wearing face coverings, they should do that as well, she adds.

Banerji, meanwhile, says all parties involved in trick-or-treating should be wearing face coverings. But an even better strategy, she said may be to not take part at all.

"For the first Halloween in my life, we're not going to do it,'' she said. "I just don't think it's safe.''

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