CHICAGO — Illinois announced the news kids around the state have been waiting for Wednesday: trick-or-treating will be allowed on Halloween, but there are restrictions to keep in mind for the holiday as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The first signs of fall are all around us: the pumpkins are out, the leaves are changing and people are picking apples — and costumes. So, the question is: what will Halloween look like this year?
“For Halloween, we are encouraging people to find ways to celebrate that might look a little different than in years past,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
IDPH guidelines released Wednesday suggest the safest way to celebrate Halloween would be to stay home, using social media and other means to connect with family and friends. But health officials say there are ways to trick-or-treat safely, so long as it incorporates masking and hand washing, and encourages social distancing.
“It could now involve just setting out individual pieces of candy, spaced out on a table, where kids in costumes, socially distanced, can still pass by and retrieve it,” Ezike said.
Although masks are common on Halloween, Ezike said there’s a right way to wear one in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“A costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering. If face coverings are worn under a costume mask, please ensure that this does not create any breathing problems,” Ezike said.
The IDPH says haunted houses and big Halloween parties for adults are not allowed this year, but other fall family activities like hayrides and apple picking will be permitted with limited capacities, and social distancing.
“I don’t think there’s going to be Halloween parties, so I think this year the whole neighborhood is going to partake and we’re still going to do trick-or-treating for the kids,” said Tinley Park resident Kelly Larkin.
Officials say if you think you could have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, do not participate in any in-person Halloween activities.
“I encourage people to accept the situation but be creative this holiday season. Challenge yourself and your kids about how you can celebrate these holidays as safely as possible,” Ezike said.
Risk of Halloween activities
If you’re still not sure about what to do this fall, the CDC previously released guidelines on Halloween activities based on the risk they pose of spreading the coronavirus.
They ranked traditional trick-or-treating, crowded parties, and indoor haunted houses as posing the highest risk for coronavirus transmission.
- Anyone participating in trick-or-treating, including those passing out candy, should maintain six feet of social distance and wear proper face coverings.
- A Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Ensure that breathing is not impaired if a cloth mask is worn under a costume mask. If so, discard the costume mask.
- Trick-or-treat in groups with household members only.
- Candy collected during trick-or-treating should not be eaten until after handwashing.
Handing out candy
- Consider leaving individually wrapped candy (spaced apart) on a table in driveways or in front of walkways, sidewalks, or any outdoor space where 6-feet of distance can be maintained.
- Draw markers on the ground to indicate 6 feet for social distancing or create signage to direct the flow of foot traffic
- Alternative spaces like large parking lots or outdoor space with tables that have individually wrapped candy that is spaced out can allow people can stay six feet apart as they parade past.
- Halloween haunted houses currently are not allowed in Restore Illinois Phase 4 Guidelines.
- Consider open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks where 6-feet of distance can be maintained and face coverings are used.
Adult costume parties, social gatherings, Halloween parties at bars
- Gatherings of more than 50 people or 50% or more of a building’s maximum occupancy are prohibited. (Lower limits may apply for regions in additional mitigation.)
- The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Follow small social gathering safety tips from IDPH, and self-isolate if you attend any high-risk events.
Pumpkin patches and orchards
- Cloth face coverings and social distancing should be enforced.
- Use hand sanitizer before handling pumpkins, apples, and other produce.
- Hayrides should not exceed 50% capacity with parties spaced at least six feet apart.
- Wear face coverings at all times when around people not from your household.
Some cities have released their own guidelines for the Halloween season, including:
- Aurora: Extended trick-or-treating to 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
- Elk Grove Village: Red and green signs show which residents are participating, reduced hours from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m
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