More goblins and ghouls will be out trick-or-treating across Illinois this Halloween — but the coronavirus will still be lurking out there too, public health officials warned Friday.
The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a new set of guidelines for families to celebrate more safely as the viral specter still looms ahead of the state’s second COVID-19 All Hallow’s Eve.
With most treat-seekers younger than 12 and thus ineligible for vaccination, agency officials say masks are key — and not the spooky kind.
“A costume mask is NOT a substitute for a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” officials said in a statement.
Because wearing a costume mask over a proper face covering could make breathing difficult, the agency recommends choosing a costume idea that doesn’t include a mask, or one “that incorporates a face covering.”
State health officials say outdoor trick-or-treating in small groups “is best.” For indoor activities, doors and windows should be opened as much as possible to improve ventilation. Either way, everyone should wash their hands, officials said.
To minimize kids going door to door, officials recommended setting up tables in a parking lot or other safe outdoor space to swap treats in a costume parade.
For the horror-thrill-seekers, officials say open-air haunted houses are safer than enclosed ones. Masks are required indoors, as in any other public space under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s indoor mask mandate.
And it’s best to avoid peak crowd times at haunted houses as well as pumpkin patches, orchards and other seasonal festivals, officials said.
Anyone with COVID-like symptoms or who thinks they’ve been exposed needs to stay home, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement.
“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,” Ezike said.
“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your friends and family, and your community, but it’s also important to use a layered approach by wearing a mask indoors and limiting/avoiding settings where physical distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of the virus.”
After a late-summer surge in Delta variant cases, COVID-19 is spreading at the slowest rate seen in Illinois since mid-July.
New COVID-19 cases by day
Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health
The state reported 15,699 new cases over the past week, or about 2,243 per day, marking a 19% decrease from the previous week. The seven-day average statewide case positivity rate is 2%, as low as it’s been since July 16.
Hospitals across the state were treating 1,550 COVID-19 patients Thursday night, a 6% decrease from a week earlier and the fewest overall since Aug. 9.
COVID-19 deaths declined 12% over the same period, with 184 lives lost in a week — about 26 fatalities per day.
Nearly 81% of eligible residents have gotten at least one shot, and about 63% are considered fully vaccinated.
For more Halloween safety tips, visit dph.illinois.gov.