With Halloween just weeks away and fall weather arriving, Illinois' health department on Friday issued new guidance for how to navigate the holiday and fall festivities, including when you should wear masks and things to know for trick-or-treating.
This year, the season will "look a little different," the state's top doctor said, citing readily available vaccines.
“Although we’re still in the pandemic, this Halloween and Fall festivities season will look a little different than last year thanks to the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that are readily available,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, we must still take precautions as not everyone is vaccinated and a vaccine for children younger than 12 year is not yet available."
Ezike said while getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect yourself and others, she encouraged a "layered approach" that includes wearing masks indoors and avoiding or limiting being in settings where physical distancing is not possible.
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Here's the guidance from the department:
Illinois remains under an executive order requiring masks in all indoor public locations, but the health department made clear that a costume mask is "not a substitute for a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
"Wearing a costume mask over a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not recommended because it could make breathing more difficult," the department said. "Safer options include choosing a costume that does not come with a costume mask, or find a costume that incorporates a face covering."
Trick-or-treating outdoors in small groups is best, the guidance states, but if outdoors is not an option, there are steps people can take to make indoor trick-or-treating safer.
- Those handing out tricks or treats indoors should open doors and windows as much as possible to promote increased ventilation
- Wear a mask
- Everyone handing out or receiving treats should wash their hands
Alternatives to door-to-door trick-or-treating can include:
- Setting up tables in a parking lot or other safe outdoor area where individually wrapped treats can be set out
- Holding an outdoor costume parade for kids along with a parent/guardian
HAUNTED HOUSES, WOODS, WALKS
Open-air haunted houses are safer than an enclosed haunted house, IDPH said, adding that masks are still required in indoor haunted houses and the number of people should be limited to reduce crowding.
Other options include visiting outdoor haunted woods or going on a haunted walk.
PUMPKIN PATCHES, ORCHARD VISITS, FALL FESTIVALS
IDPH recommends people aim to visit pumpkin patches, orchards, and festivals at off-peak times when they might not be as busy.
"You can also limit your exposure by moving away from crowded areas and wearing a mask," the guidance states.
HALLOWEEN PARTIES AND SOCIAL GATHERINGS
"Large gatherings with more people increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission compared to small gatherings, and outdoor parties are safer than indoor parties," IDPH said. "If indoors, mask must be worn in public places, but can also be worn in private settings where physical distancing is difficult. For indoor gatherings, try to increase air flow by opening doors and windows."
DÍA LOS MUERTOS
IDPH recommends holding events and activities outdoors to honor deceased loved ones for Día de los Muertos, saying it is safer than indoors.
"If gathering indoor, increase air flow by opening windows and try to physically distance as much as possible," the department said. "Another option to celebrate and remember deceased loved ones is to exchange traditional family recipes with family or neighbors that they can make at home."
IDPH reminded residents that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should not participate in any of the above events.
Chicago officials had also previously released guidelines for people participating in Halloween festivities, including trick-or-treating, the last week of October.
Chicago's Halloweek will take place from Oct. 23 to Oct. 30, according to a release from city officials, and involves nine major COVID-19 precautionary guidelines, including masks, trick-or-treating in smaller groups, eating candy at home and more.
Chicagoans can download a sign through the city's website to be displayed in the window, notifying people whether or not they are participating in Halloween this year.
"Beginning October 23, we're offering a weeklong celebration of trick-or-treating and other activities that our children and families can once again enjoy," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "As we celebrate this holiday in a reimagined way, I want to remind everyone that this wouldn't be possible without masking, social distancing, and most importantly vaccinations."