To trick or treat or not…We’re more than halfway through the whirlwind that has been 2020. It’s safe to say that after all the stress this pandemic has caused has lead to a craving for Halloween fun – especially the little residents of Illinois. Trick or treating is an annual favorite activity during Halloween for the children, meanwhile adults are missing out on their favorite haunted houses and annual parties.
But with the coronavirus still very active in our country, how can we still observe these fun traditions safely? Is Halloween canceled this year? The answer is NO! Halloween isn’t canceled; however it will look very different this year.
On October 1st, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared that Halloween is allowed this year, but with some guidelines. “Those going door-to-door cannot be in groups larger than six, must “keep it moving” and social distance.” Chicago Mayor Lightfoot
Lightfoot also outlined a new city event – Halloweek. The City of Chicago and state of Illinois have worked in conjunction with the CDC to create the following Halloween guidelines:
Anyone participating in trick-or-treating should maintain social distance and wear proper face coverings; consider leaving individual candies spaced apart outside; trick-or-treat only with household members and wash hands before eating candy, the state said.
An alternative to traditional trick-or-treating is to set up in a large parking lot or other outdoor setting with tables with individually wrapped candy, where participants with a parent/guardian can parade past while still keeping 6-feet of distance and wearing a face covering. It’s suggested to offer reserved time slots to limit everyone showing up at once.
Halloween haunted houses currently are not allowed.
“Avoid crowded costume parties at home or at bars, which can absolutely increase your risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to the community,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.
The CDC also published a list of what they consider “low to high risk” Halloween activities. This list can help you determine which level of activities are best suited for your family. “Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.”
“Over 148 million U.S. adults intend to take part in Halloween-related activities this year, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s down from the 172 million in the 2019 survey. And those planning to celebrate by trick or treating this year dropped to 23% from 29% in 2019. While some parents are preparing safe trick-or-treating routes for their children, others are conflicted on whether they should let them go at all.” NPR
What about apple picking and hayrides during the Halloween festivities? Most of us in Illinois celebrate the Halloween season with these outdoor activities. But many worry if this can be done safely. Within the Illinois state guidelines, there are details about participating in Halloween events safely divided by category. Click here to view the comprehensive list.
- For those who do plan to trick or treat, Illinois public health officials say everyone must be socially distant, wear a mask, wash their hands and limit group size.
- Gatherings of more than 50 people or 50% or more of a building’s maximum occupancy are prohibited.
- Cloth face coverings and social distancing should be enforced and hand sanitizer should be used at pumpkin patches and orchards.
- Hayrides should not exceed 50% capacity with parties spaced at least 6 feet apart and face coverings should be worn.
ABC News has released a list of the official trick or treating times for Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
If you are going to participate in these activities it’s always wise to trust your instincts. If you notice the event is becoming too crowded or people are not following CDC regulations like wearing a mask, you can choose to leave. Have a talk with your family before heading out to explain to them the importance of staying safe and healthy. You’d be surprised how understanding the little ones can be if you come up with a game plan ahead of time!
If the grandparents are going to join in the fun, take a few extra safety precautions such as: wearing gloves, staying well hydrated, and dress extra warm. COVID-19 isn’t the only virus that can harm the elderly, flu season has also started. The state also encourages the elderly to get a flu shot.
Know when to cancel your plans! If you or anyone in your family starts to feel under the weather or show any of the following symptoms, please stay home! People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
“If you participated in higher-risk activities or think that you may have been exposed during your celebration, take extra precautions for 14 days after the event to help protect others. You should:
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Avoid being around people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Consider getting tested for COVID-19.
If you are the host of an event and are notified by an attendee that they have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your local health department for additional guidance.” If you’re currently experiencing any of these symptoms, please read the CDCs “Self-Checker” guide and seek the proper medical help you may need.
If your family decides to take part in trick or treating…
While you and the kids are out hunting for treats, it’s a good idea to be prepared for health risk situations that may pop up.
- Stay masked up! Always wear your masks! This is the first line of defense against nasty germs. Children as young as 2 years old can wear them. Make a fun game out of wearing your safety gear.
- Bring sanitizing wipes! these will come in handy for sticky fingers as well as keeping germs at bay. These wipes are also easier to share without worrying about passing a bottle of sanitizer around.
- Wear gloves: Bring both plastic and winter gloves for keeping the little one’s fingers warm. By keeping their hands covered, you reduce the risk of germs being passed via physical contact. Plastic gloves can come in handy if someone possibly falls, get a scrape that requires their skin being touched
- Small traveling first aid kit: Let’s face it, kids are super excited to finally be out and running around dressed as their favorite characters. You want to be prepared in case someone takes a little tumble!
Looking for lower risk ways to celebrate?
Here are alternative ways to still have fun! If trick or treating just doesn’t sound right for your family, that’s okay! There are a wide range of fun activities for the family to do on Halloween….
- Have a neighborhood parade! Kids can practice social distance by walking 6 feet apart in their costumes. Parents, friends, and neighbors cheering them on as they collect pre-sanitized goodies. This will be a fun way to show off their cool costumes while maintaining healthy distance. A Halloween parade can also be done virtually via zoom!
- Stay warm with bonfire at home! Host a small family bonfire, keep it intimate and simple with the loved ones or trusted neighbors. Roast s’mores over an open fire while telling scary stories!
- Halloween candy hunt! Take a little inspiration from another holiday like Easter! Instead of an egg hunt, hide sweet treats around the backyard. Unleash your little candy crazed monsters and superheroes in the safety of your own backyard for a fun and safe time.
- Movie night! There’s nothing wrong with popping some popcorn and having a large bowl of candy in front of you while enjoying classic scary or fun Halloween movie. Make it a weekend movie marathon!