The city of Janesville will allow trick-or-treating on Halloween this year but recommended families take precautions.

The city also warned against Halloween parties and haunted houses.

Janesville on Wednesday announced trick-or-treating hours of 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, joining several other area communities—except for the city and town of Beloit—who are keeping the annual tradition.

The decision comes as Rock County reported record high numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

As of Monday, Janesville had recorded 1,064 COVID-19 cases, which was 117 more than the week before.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that traditional trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity. The risk, of course, is getting sick with COVID-19.

In Rock County, 7% of COVID-19 cases have been in children younger than 15.

City spokeswoman Maggie Darr said officials have discussed the problem for weeks.

“We recognized that there’s not a lot for kids to look forward to this year, and we recognized people are going to trick-or-treat anyway, and we’re seeing a lot of that conversation happening down in Beloit and other communities,” Darr said.

The town and city of Beloit said last week they would not set trick-or-treating hours.

“Our thought was, you cancel trick-or-treating, and then people are more likely to have indoor Halloween parties. And really, we think trick-or-treating can be done safely if people take precautions,” Darr said.

The city’s news release says those not participating should keep their porch lights off, while those who do participate should follow city recommendations listed below.

  • Stay home if feeling sick.
  • Trick-or-treaters, chaperones and residents handing out candy should wear masks, defined as “a cloth face covering.”
  • Do not hand out candy if anyone in your household is sick.
  • Contact your doctor before participating in Halloween activities if you or your child are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19.
  • Limit groups of trick-or-treaters to household members only.
  • Limit the number of chaperones for each group.
  • Maintain social distance from other groups. Leave at least 6 feet between your group and the next while walking or visiting residences.
  • Visit only houses with lights on.
  • Refrain from having children select their own treats from a bowl or common container. Or set up a hand-sanitizing station.
  • Avoid homemade treats made by strangers. Allow children to eat only factory-wrapped treats.
  • Enjoy Halloween parties with immediate family only. Avoid large group gatherings.

The city recommends those passing out candy should:

  • Use tongs or gloves to hand out candy, or try setting up a table of treats in the driveway, using PVC pipe to deliver candy from a distance, attaching treats to sticks stuck in the ground, hanging treats from a wall or fence. The CDC said alternatives “where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance, such as at the end of a driveway,” is a moderate-risk activity.
  • Give out prepackaged candy only.
  • Do not give out candy if anyone in the household is sick or under quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.
  • Do not set up haunted houses in confined spaces.
  • Set up a one-way trick-or-treat line with markers spaced 6 feet apart.

The city encourages residents to avoid crowded costume parties held indoors, going to indoor haunted houses “where people may be crowded together and screaming,” or going on hayrides or tractor rides with people not in your household.

Asked if the CDC was wrong about trick-or-treating, Darr said, “We know that people are going to be out in the community trick-or-treating anyway. So our thought is getting out in front of it and saying please do this as opposed to a free-for-all is going to make it safer for everybody.”

The city of Edgerton announced last week its trick-or-treating hours would be 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31.

“It is not an activity that is sponsored by any one organization, and the city does not have the ability to grant or deny a permit for the activity,” the Edgerton Police Department said on its Facebook page.

“It is up to each citizen to decide whether or not to participate in Halloween activities amid COVID-19 based on their assessment of the situation,” police said. “… The city of Edgerton wants everyone to be safe and enjoy whatever type of Halloween celebration individuals chose to have in 2020.”