Pediatrician: 'Trick-or-treating is just not feasible this year'

  • West Chicago Park District's Halloween Parade has been canceled this year, but ninja costumes at least provide some face covering.

    West Chicago Park District's Halloween Parade has been canceled this year, but ninja costumes at least provide some face covering. Daily Herald File Photo, 2012

  • Masked-up medical professionals might be popular Halloween costumes this year. But is trick-or-treating safe in light of the pandemic?

    Masked-up medical professionals might be popular Halloween costumes this year. But is trick-or-treating safe in light of the pandemic? Getty Images

 
 
Updated 9/12/2020 4:50 PM

Halloween candy has been on sale for weeks, but parents are wondering whether trick-or-treating will be the latest holiday tradition trashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some suburban towns and county health departments are taking a wait-and-see approach to trick-or-treat guidelines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We will continue monitoring the pandemic and its public impact as Halloween approaches," said Elgin communications manager Molly Gillespie.

DuPage County Health Department public information officer Don Bolger said officials there were expecting safety guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health near the end of September.

Neither Schaumburg nor Naperville have ordinances regulating trick-or-treating hours or rules. Yet both towns have historically issued Halloween safety warnings.

"Given the challenge of the ongoing pandemic and the need to emphasize social distancing to help mitigate the spread of the virus, the village will likely await recommendations from the state, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or other trusted public health agencies," said Allison Albrecht, Schaumburg director of communications & outreach.

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"Those who don't want trick-or-treaters should leave their coach lights off," suggested Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche.

Some villages aren't taking any chances this year. Lincolnshire and West Chicago have canceled all events on village-owned property through Dec. 31 -- so no Boo Bash at Lincolnshire's North Park or Halloween Parade down Main Street in West Chicago.

As for going door-to-door, experts warn it's nearly impossible to follow the basic safety "Three W's" of "Wear a mask," "Wash your hands" and "Watch your distance" while trick-or-treating.

"The idea of trick-or-treating is just not feasible this year," said Shelly Vaziri Flais, a professor with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician with Pediatric Health Associates in Naperville.

Flais laughed about surgeons, hazmat workers and masked ninjas likely being popular costumes choices in response to the coronavirus. But Flais was more serious about the communicable risks of people repeatedly coming into close contact with each other to exchange candy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It isn't whether you believe in a virus or not. This is an actual virus that follows the rules of science," Flais said. "To me, the greater good would be served by finding alternative ways to celebrate Halloween."

One option could be a free Halloween Pageant Extravaganza sponsored by College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. It's an online costume contest for kids and pets on Oct. 31 (the submission deadline for digital photos or videos is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at atthemac.org).

Another might be to find outdoor activities that allow for proper social distancing. For example, the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe is reconfiguring access this year for its annual "Night of 1,000 Jack-o'-Lanterns" display.

Flais, the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics book "Caring for Your School-Age Child," says it's important for parents to set a positive and realistic tone about life's disappointments.

Flais said in any other year, bad weather could have adversely affected kids' annual candy grab.

"Having four teenagers, I've done my fair share of trick-or-treating. There were crazy winds one year and sopping rain another," Flais said. "2019 was the snowstorm and literally nobody trick-or-treated in my town last year."

• Daily Herald reporters Eric Peterson, Lauren Rohr, Kevin Schmit and Rick West contributed to this story.

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