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CHICAGO — As the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, state health leaders are urging families to scale back Halloween celebrations this year to help keep residents safe.

In Halloween guidelines released Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health said the safest plan is for families to stay home, “using social media and other meeting platforms to connect with family and friends.”

Haunted houses are not allowed in the state’s current phase of reopening. Trunk-or-treat events — where children can trick-or-treat out of decorated cars in parking lots — and indoor parties at homes or in bars where people cannot practice social distancing both are highly discouraged.

For those who do plan to attend in-person celebrations or events, outdoor events are safer than indoor in minimizing risk of transmission. Practicing social distancing, being vigilant about hygiene and wearing masks are critical precautions to prevent the potential spread of disease.

“The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19,” state officials said.

Remember: Anyone who believes they may have coronavirus or have been exposed to it should not participate in any Halloween events this year and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Here are some other tips as you consider how to celebrate.

Neighborhood trick-or-treating

  • Instead of typical trick-or-treating, residents giving out treats can leave individually wrapped candy outside their homes to allow for at least six feet of social distancing. The candy should be spread out so no pieces are touching each other. Anyone giving out candy should wash their hands before touching it.
  • Anyone trick-or-treating or handing out candy must wear face coverings over the nose and mouth — Halloween costume masks don’t count — and practice social distancing.  
  • Only members of the same household should trick-or-treat together. Mixing among households and friends groups is discouraged. Groups of trick-or-treaters should stay at least six feet away from each other at all times.
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer close by and use it often.
  • When you get home from trick-or-treating, have the kids wash their hands before eating any candy. Parents should check to make sure all the candy is individually wrapped and throw out anything that isn’t.
  • Keep trick-or-treating to outdoor areas where there is good airflow. Enclosed areas, such as apartment buildings, carry a higher risk of disease transmission. You can open doors and windows as needed to increase ventilation.

Trick-or-treating alternatives

State officials do not recommend trunk-or-treating this year, but said people can set up socially distanced events with limited crowds and staff in outdoor parking lots with tables to distribute candy.

As always, everyone should wear face coverings, wash their hands before giving out or eating candy, and maintain six feet of space among families.

If you want to do something like that, here are some tips:

  • 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 in between.
  • Advertise with information about reserved time slots, social distancing, and mask wearing.
  • Package candy or favors in treat bags for easy distribution.
  • Set up signs to direct the flow of foot traffic.
  • Place markers on the ground to show six feet for social distancing.

Día de los Muertos

  • Avoid indoor gatherings and large dinner parties. Outdoor gatherings honoring late loved ones should involve wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
  • Consider preparing and sharing dishes so you can reduce your contacts with other neighbors and relatives, like individual servings in separate dishes. 
  • Avoid singing or chanting indoors, since that can increase the risk of transmission.

Other events

  • No haunted houses this year. Sorry.
  • Open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks are okay. But keep a minimum of six feet of social distancing. More if people are going to be screaming, which can increase the risk of disease transmission.
  • Pumpkin patches and orchard visits are okay if you wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Visitors should use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before touching any produce.
  • Hayrides are okay but they should not exceed 50 percent capacity and people should stay six feet apart. It’s best if hayrides are restricted to members of the same household. Wear masks.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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