Illinois becomes only state to ban haunted houses
Other states warned residents about small spaces inside haunted houses creating a risk for spreading COVID-19, but Illinois is all alone in outlawing them.
Illinoisans wanting to be scared this Halloween need only look at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest COVID-19 mandate: No haunted houses.
A few states have cautioned about wearing masks and keeping social distance in haunted houses, but only Pritzker took the decision out of residents’ hands and banned haunted houses statewide.
“Haunted houses tend to be very enclosed, with not a lot of open space,” Pritzker said. “As a result, the viral load can get high very quickly in a space like that. So that’s why doctors chose to act as they did with regard to haunted houses.”
Health officials have recommended alternatives to haunted houses that don’t put people in small enclosed spaces. Open air haunted trails are safe if social distancing measures are in place. Health officials recommend extra social distancing if screaming is anticipated, because screaming projects viral particles longer distances.
Illinois is the only state that has banned haunted houses. Other states are allowing them to open with restrictions or safety measures. Health officials in Ohio and Connecticut recommended banning haunted houses, but neither state has acted on the recommendations. Massachusetts is allowing haunted houses as it moves into a new phase of reopening.
Most other states simply provided guidance for haunted houses to safely operate this year. Cities such as Los Angeles and some counties have issued their own bans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend visiting haunted houses.
Other Halloween activities in Illinois are still allowed this year with proper safety measures. Hayrides can run at 50% capacity with six feet of space between parties and mask wearing. Visits to farms for corn mazes or pumpkin picking are allowed, too.
Trick-or-treating can also go on, although rules will be different between municipalities. Officials recommend appropriate mask wearing, trick-or-treating with members of your own house and spacing candy outside to avoid a common bowl or repeated visits to the front door.
Illinois announced 2,206 new cases of COVID-19 on Oct. 2 with 25 more deaths. The state’s positivity rate remains relatively flat at 3.4%.
New mitigation measures are set to begin in Region 1 on Oct. 3, which includes Rockford, Galena, Dixon and DeKalb. That area’s positivity rate has remained over 8% since Sept. 25. The Metro East, Region 4, has been under similar restrictions since mid-August. The 7-day average was 7.5% on Sept. 28. Restrictions will not be lifted unless the seven-day positivity rate falls below 6.5%.
Two state senators from the region, Sens. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, and Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said Pritzker should immediately remove the Metro East restrictions because there are “significant issues with the state’s COVID-19 reporting and tracking methods (that) are likely affecting the accuracy of the published positivity rate for the Metro East region.”
“As more and more facts call into question the accuracy of the positivity rate for Region 4, I find it unconscionable that the State of Illinois is shutting down businesses and destroying livelihoods based on a metric that is clearly neither meaningful nor accurate,” Schimpf said.
Specifically, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike admitted that until recently the state was not including data from some of the Metro East’s biggest health care providers that are based in Missouri. BJC HealthCare treats 30% of the area’s residents, and it was among the providers only reporting positive COVID-19 results. Failure to include negative test results skewed the region’s positivity rate higher.
Pritzker earlier bowed to political pressure and delayed increasing restrictions on the Metro East when local Democrats pushed him, meaning politics took precedent over the science on which he claims his decisions are based. Now that his science has been shown to be flawed, the senators want him to remove the restrictions that are closing most bars and restricting restaurants to outdoor dining, even as the weather cools.
The COVID-19 economic crisis in Illinois has nearly 500,000 workers collecting unemployment, especially hitting women and minority workers who are significant to the service and hospitality industries. Facing that scary problem makes the threat of getting sick at haunted houses pale.