As we enter fall, families are starting to plan for the upcoming holiday season, starting with Halloween. Because some of the traditional ways to celebrate this holiday do not allow for proper social distancing, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is providing the following guidance to allow for safe Halloween celebrations. Trick-or-treating events need to incorporate social distancing, masking, and proper handwashing, as well as adherence to event size limitations. For this year, it would be safest to plan special events at home, using social media and other meeting platforms to connect with family and friends. However, for those who choose to celebrate in person IDPH is offering the following guidance. Please reference your local health department, village/city, or county information for guidance or policies specific to your location as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers additional guidance, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween.
As a reminder, if you think you could have COVID-19 or 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. Individuals at increased risk for severe illness should not attend in-person Halloween gatherings.
- As an alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating, anyone who would like to distribute treats should leave individually wrapped candy or treats on a table, on their front walkways, sidewalks, or any outdoor space that allows for at least 6 feet of social distance from the door. The individually wrapped candy should be spread out so each piece is not touching another. Anyone distributing candy or treats should wash their hands properly for at least 20 seconds before placing the candy on the table and when replenishing.
- All individuals participating in trick-or-treating, including those passing out candy should maintain social distance of least 6 feet and wear proper face coverings. A costume mask, such as those worn for Halloween, is not a substitute for a face covering. If face coverings are worn under costume masks, please ensure this does not create breathing problems, and if so, discard the costume mask.
- Only household members should trick-or-treat together, and they should maintain 6-feet social distance from other trick-or-treaters at all times. Mixed household trick-or-treaters are discouraged.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be carried and used frequently.
- Candy collected during trick-or-treating should not be consumed until after handwashing. As always, a parent/guardian should check all candy to make sure it is wrapped and should discard unwrapped candy.
- And, of course, practice good dental hygiene as well.
- Outdoor areas are preferred for trick-or-treating. Enclosed indoor areas, like apartment buildings, present greater risk of transmission. Open doors and windows as appropriate to promote increased ventilation.
Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
Trunk or treat events are considered a higher risk activity and are discouraged. An alternative activity involves trick-or-treating in a large parking lot or other outdoor setting with adherence to social distancing. Tables are pre-set up with participants allowed to parade with a parent/guardian while maintaining at least 6-feet social distancing and wearing proper face coverings at all times. A limited number of people should staff the event, keeping tables replenished and monitoring social distancing. Proper handwashing should be performed before candy is consumed.
- Recruit a set number of table sponsors.
- Create a timed entry schedule to figure out what the attendance limit will be.
- Create a map of where tables will be with plenty of space between.
- Advertise with information about reserved time slots, social distancing, and mask wearing.
- Package candies or favors in treat bags for easy distribution.
- Create signage to direct the flow of foot traffic.
- Draw markers on the ground to indicate 6 feet for social distancing.
- Mask up and enjoy!
Other Halloween Activities and Events
Haunted Houses, Forests, or Walks
- Halloween haunted houses are currently not allowed in Restore Illinois Phase 4 Guidelines. Instead consider open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks where social distancing of 6 feet or greater and appropriate masking is enforced. If screaming is anticipated, even greater social distancing is advised to lower the risk of spreading respiratory viruses.
Pumpkin Patches, Orchard Visits, and Hayrides
- Visitors to these locations should use hand sanitizer before handling the produce. Cloth face coverings and social distancing should be enforced.
- Hayrides should not exceed 50% capacity with parties spaced at least six feet apart. Best practice is for hayrides to be limited to members of the same household. Participants should wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered at all times when around people who don’t live in your household.
Fall Festival Events
- Avoid attending fall festivals outside your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.
Social Gatherings, Costume Parties in Adult Settings, Halloween Parties at Bars
- Large gatherings with more people are considered higher risk than smaller group gatherings, and must adhere to event size limitations
- Indoor parties or gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), wearing masks, handwashing, or otherwise participating in prevention behaviors will result in a higher risk for transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 illness. These types of gatherings are strongly discouraged.
- Use of alcohol or drugs can impair judgement and result in increased risky behaviors.
- Gathering with groups of people who routinely do not adhere to prevention measures or those who travel from areas with increased community transmission will increase the risk for others at the party or gathering.
- The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- For more information, refer to IDPH’s Small Social Gathering Safety Tips
Día de los Muertos
It is possible to take a lower risk approach to many of the traditional activities associated with Día de los Muertos that may put you at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Events and activities to honor deceased loved ones should be held outdoors, and participants should wear masks and maintain 6-feet social distancing. Avoid having large dinner parties. Smaller gatherings with local friends or family, held outdoors, where social distancing of 6 feet or more can be maintained, will have less risk of COVID-19 transmission. (See IDPH guidance on hosting gatherings.) Consider preparing and sharing traditional family recipes with family and neighbors in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others, such as individual servings in separate dishes. Avoid large indoor gatherings with singing or chanting.
After the Celebration
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 develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or if you test positive for COVID-19, immediately contact the host and others who attended the event or celebration you attended. Contact your health care provider and follow the CDC-recommended steps for what to do if you become sick, and follow the public health recommendations for community-related exposure.
If you are tested for COVID-19, stay home while waiting for your test results. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a public health worker will contact you to check on your health and ask you who you have been in contact with and where you’ve spent time in order to identify other people (contacts) who may have been infected. Your information will be confidential.
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 are notified that you were a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19
- Stay home for 14 days from the last time you had contact with that person.
- Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Get information about COVID-19 testing if you feel sick.
Stay safe this Halloween!