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SPRINGFIELD – A month ahead of Halloween, the Illinois Department of Public Health released its official COVID-19 related guidance for the holiday.
State health officials wrote in a Wednesday, Sept. 30 news release the state's Halloween health and safety guidelines still include urging people to wash their hands, watching their distance from others and to wear their face masks.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in the news release that one of the hallmarks of holidays and celebrations is gathering with friends and family. However, Ezike said in the release, the COVID-19 pandemic is still happening and 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," Ezike said in the release. "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 update comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released similar pandemic-related health and safety guidance for Halloween on Sept. 22.
State health officials wrote in the Wednesday news release gatherings of more than 50 people or more than 49% of a building’s maximum occupancy are prohibited and lower limits may apply for regions in additional mitigation.
"The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19," health officials wrote.
Those who are participating in trick-or-treating, including people passing out candy, should maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet and wear proper face coverings and trick-or-treaters should participate in groups with household members only, per state health officials. State health officials wrote people also should consider leaving individually wrapped candy that is spaced apart on a table in driveways or in front of walkways, sidewalks or other outdoor spaces where 6-feet of distance can be maintained.
Health officials are reminding the public that a Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask and to make sure breathing is not impaired if a cloth mask is worn under a costume mask. They also wrote candy collected during trick-or-treating should not be eaten until after handwashing.
Halloween haunted houses currently are not allowed per Restore Illinois Phase 4 guidelines, according to state health officials. However, alternatives to consider are open-air, one-way haunted forests or haunted walks where social distancing can be maintained.
Health officials wrote cloth face coverings and social distancing should be enforced for apple picking or visiting pumpkin patches and hand sanitizer should be used before handling pumpkins or apples. Hayrides also should not exceed 50% capacity with parties spaced at least six feet apart and participants are urged to wear face coverings at all times when around people who are not from their households.
Health officials wrote they urge people to consider getting tested for COVID-19, to stay home as much as possible and to avoid being around people at-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 if they believe they may have been exposed to someone with the virus during any Halloween celebrations or activities. They wrote people who think they could have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 are told to not participate in any in-person activities.