Wylie Osborne places pumpkins around a tree outside of the cabin at Stumpkins Pumpkins in Princeton recently. Pumpkin carving and displaying are one of the many traditional Halloween activities sill recommended by the CDC for a safe Halloween season.

BLUEFIELD — Halloween is one of the most anticipated holidays on the calendar, but this year health officials are urging caution since its traditions could bring trick or treaters and other revelers in contact with COVID-19.

This year, the Virginia Department of Health recommends not trick-ortreating in large groups or outside your own neighborhood, and not having haunted houses or large Halloween parties. Across the region, Halloween activities have either been canceled or limited already.

In Mercer County, the annual Monster Mash held in Princeton has been canceled for this year because of the crowds the event brings to Mercer Street. The Princeton City Council has not yet decided whether to have trick or treat this year, and the City of Bluefield is tentatively planning to have trick or treat this year.

The Town of Athens has announced that they will be observing Halloween on October 31, from 6 to 8 pm. Due to Covid-19 the town is allowing parents to make the decision if they want to take their children door-to-door. They ask parents to please use social distancing rules and please check all candy.

Organizers in Tazewell, Va. are planning to have a drive-through trunk or treat event on Oct. 31. Individuals handing out candy from their vehicles’ trunks will wear masks and gloves while children stay inside their cars, said Tazewell Town Manager Todd Day.

Precautions that have been used since the pandemic started should be used during Halloween, too, health officials said.

“Everyone can protect themselves from COVID19 by avoiding people who live outside of your household, wearing a cloth face covering in public settings, frequent hand washing and staying six feet apart from each other,” said Eleanor “Sue” Cantrell, M.D., director of the Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts.

“Some people, especially those at higher risk for illness, may choose not to participate in Halloween festivities this year,” Dr. Cantrell added, “as events that involve large gatherings of individuals can increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

The Virginia Department of Health recommends not trick or treating in large groups or outside your own neighborhood, and not holding haunted houses or other large Halloween parties.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers tips titled Guidance for Holiday Celebrations on its website. The site lists low risk, moderate risk and high risk Halloween activities.

Low-risk activities include members of a household carving or decorating pumpkins together and displaying them, or carving pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends. Decorating homes for Halloween and having virtual Halloween costume contests are among the other options suggested by the CDC.

Moderate-risk activities include attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask, CDC officials said.

A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face, CDC officials said. Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

CDC officials advised against participating in traditional trick or treat activities, large Halloween parties or costume parties that are held indoors or indoor haunted houses.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com

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