coronavirus illinois

Will Coronavirus Force Many to Cancel Trick-or-Treating? Here's What Chicago-Area Officials Say

Chicago has already said it is evaluating plans, but several suburbs and area health departments are also watching closely - and answers could be coming soon

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With Halloween fast approaching, many are wondering: will coronavirus force the cancellation of trick-or-treating altogether?

Chicago has already said it is evaluating plans, but several suburbs and area health departments are also watching closely - and answers could be coming soon.

The DuPage County Health Department said it is awaiting guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which is being prepared.

"IDPH is planning to offer the details around the end of this month," DuPage County Health Department spokesman Don Bolger said in a statement.

IDPH did not immediately respond to NBC Chicago's request for comment.

The Lake County Health Department said it is monitoring "for a possible rise in cases following the Labor Day weekend."

"A lot can change in a few weeks," said spokesperson Hannah Goering.

In suburbs like West Chicago, all events on city-owned property have been canceled through the rest of the year, which includes Halloween festivities like downtown trick-or-treating.

“It is a painful decision to have to make,” Mayor Ruben Pineda said in a statement. “Nobody loves a festival more than me, but nothing is more important than the health and safety of our residents and visitors. This decision was made in everyone’s best interest.”

In Naperville, spokeswoman Linda LaCloche told the Daily Herald "those who don't want trick-or-treaters should leave their coach lights off."

Meanwhile in suburbs like Elgin, city officials say no decision has been made on whether trick-or-treating will continue this year.

"We will continue monitoring the pandemic and its public impact as Halloween approaches," said Communications Manager Molly Gillespie.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week the city is working on plans but details will come at a later date.

"We are working on plans to recognize and celebrate Halloween, which I know is an important moment for many, including the kids in my neighborhood, but we're going to do it in a way that's consistent with the public health guidance," Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said while she doesn't know what the city's plans will be come October's end, she doesn't expect to see large groups of trick-or-treaters this year.

"Obviously it is a very different time and I don't expect to see mass crowds," Lightfoot said. "It's not safe for the children, it's not safe for the adults."

That's a sentiment that was echoed by area health experts, who said if holiday festivities aren't canceled entirely, they will certainly look different.

Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health, said the holiday was already a tricky subject for doctors as they work to battle an obesity epidemic, but the coronavirus brings even more challenges to the table.

"Now we have this COVID environment where people getting close together and in a celebratory way is one of our biggest challenges right now," Loafman said.

Maintaining small groups and proper hygiene could be a way for families to still celebrate, he noted.

"What we recommend is you know families get together, so it's safe houses where we know who's going to be going where and we know people are following the protocols and is celebrating, dressing up and the other occasions that would be useful, and good family traditions and that sort of thing," Loafman said. "We try to focus on healthy snacks, try to focus on teaching children safe ways to communicate and how to enforce public health principles. I think we anticipate living with this virus for quite a while and maybe indefinitely and we really have to learn how to retrain all occasions and all events to be able to do it in a safe way so this is an opportunity to do that."

Parents are hoping to give their kids some sense of normalcy during a trying time.

“I’m hoping that the kids can do it,” Chicago mom Emily Neis said. “I know that they’re going to be excited about it.”

Some moms are coming up with other ideas for their kids to have fun on Halloween.

“We’ll probably go over to our friend’s house and have like a Halloween contest with their costumes and stuff,” Jasmine Camacho said.

Some business owners are hopeful that Halloween can provide an excuse for kids to have some fun during a turbulent year.

“There is no other holiday where you’re supposed to wear a mask,” Courtland Hickey, owner of Chicago Costume, said. “We need it from a business perspective, but I think people need it too. Dressing up and going out and being somebody else could be a real catharsis for a lot of people.”

When it comes to proper ways to dish out candy, there are challenges that come with multiple options.

"It would be good to know that the people that are preparing the candy are doing it in a way that's hygiene related and then safe for the kids so I think having a container out that we feel confident was prepared appropriately and then letting kids pick it up, but again, the issue then is that they're all putting their hands in this bowl," Loafman said. "So, you know, individual would be safer, individual handouts in some way so that there wasn't a common bowl everybody's reaching into- I think that's probably a risky scenario."

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