Halloween has not been canceled, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still unabated, safe celebrations will require a number of precautions.
Last week, the village of Homewood posted guidelines for Halloween activities to help residents plan for safe fun. The village's guidelines are based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, which were issued on Sept. 22.
Homewood decided to discourage traditional trick-or-treating while not resorting to a ban on the practice. Instead, the village issued suggestions for how to trick-or-treat safely for those who choose to do so.
"Not all families will feel comfortable participating in trick-or-treating this year," village officials noted in the post. "Teach children not to ring the doorbell if a light is not on.
Participating in trick-or-treating is a personal choice for each family."
They encourage all trick-or-treaters to be respectful of their neighbors' decisions to participate in trick-or-treating or not.
Children may trick-or-treat on Saturday, Oct. 31, between 3 and 7 p.m.
- Do not participate in trick-or-treating if you feel unwell or if someone in your house is unwell, if you are awaiting COVID-19 test results, if you have recently returned from travel to a hotspot state or if you know that you have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Turn on your porch lamp or outdoor lights to show that your home is welcoming trick-or-treaters.
- Consider using a motion-activated noise maker to notify you when trick-or-treaters are at the door, such as a motion-activated Halloween decoration, rather than having trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell, which can be a high touch-point.
- Face coverings should be worn by all participants over the age of two, including individuals passing out treats.
- Avoid close contact with others by leaving candy on your porch – or even physically-distanced on your lawn. Instead of answering the door, wave at kids from a window as they visit.
- If you would prefer to answer the door to greet children individually, pass out candy instead of inviting children to take a treat from a communal bowl. Ask children to tell you their choice of a treat, rather than taking it themselves.
- If preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.
- Individuals should use hand sanitizer regularly throughout the trick-or-treat hours.
- Do not trick-or-treat in groups with others; trick-or-treat as a household.
- Maintain a safe distance from other trick-or-treating groups and do not approach a house until the previous group has left.
- Consider distributing treats other than candy, which parents can then sanitize before giving to kids: stickers in cellophane packaging, pencils, mini pumpkins, erasers, etc.
- Please refrain from distributing coins or cash.
- Please do not distribute homemade treats or fresh fruits.
Creative ways to distribute treats
If you would like to avoid trick-or-treaters coming to your door, but would still like to participate, consider passing out treats using the following physically-distanced ideas:
- Create a grab-bag candy walk on your lawn by placing candy inside recyclable paper lunch bags so each child can simply pick up a bag of treats.
- Hang treats from a clothesline at children's height.
- Mark a safe distance from your door using chalk and ask children to stand behind the line before you open the door to pass out candy.
Halloween face coverings
Per the CDC, a Halloween costume mask should not be considered a substitute for a cloth mask or face covering. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more breathable fabric layers that cover the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face.
The CDC does not recommend that individuals wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, the CDC urges individuals to wear a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
These lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:
The CDC also urged families to consider celebrating with lower-risk activites:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them.
- Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.
- Decorating your house, apartment, or living space.
- Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.
- Having a virtual Halloween costume contest.
- Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with.
- Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house.
On Sept. 30, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued its guidelines on Halloween safety.
“One of the hallmarks of holidays and celebrations is gathering with friends, family and loved ones,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “We are still in a pandemic, and unfortunately, this year, that means the safest way to celebrate is to stay home and plan virtual gatherings.
"That said, IDPH recognizes that some who will choose to gather together anyway, and instead of denying that reality, we are issuing guidance and recommendations for safer ways to celebrate together in person. Remember, we know what our best tools are: wearing our masks, keeping our distance, limiting event sizes, washing your hands, and looking out for public health and each other.”
- The state's guidelines are similar to those posted by the CDC, with some slight differences.
- Anyone participating in trick-or-treating, including those passing out candy, should maintain 6-feet of social distance and wear proper face coverings.
- 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.
- 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.
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 (spaced apart) 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 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 percent or more of a building’s maximum occupancy are prohibited.
- 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.
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 percent capacity with parties spaced at least six feet apart.
- Wear face coverings at all times when around people not from your household.
After participating in any of the above activities, if you think that you may have been exposed during your celebration, take extra precautions for 14 days after the event to help protect others.
IDPH Halloween guidance can be found on the IDPH website.