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Lawn trick-or-treat event falls to COVID concerns

The pandemic is not only contagious and dangerous, but when it comes to celebrating holidays, it just isn’t much fun.

Coronavirus concerns, coupled with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led the University of Virginia to close the coffin on this year’s Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn event.

A tradition since the 1980s for both Lawn residents and area families, the event has grown in scope and stature to become a popular meeting of the local and university communities.

Not this year, officials announced Monday.

“Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn is one of our favorite events of the year,” said Moriah Hendrick, head resident of the Lawn. “For Lawn residents and all other UVa students, it represents a chance to welcome the larger Charlottesville community and celebrate the connections we share.”

In 2019, Lawn residents and members of student organizations were stationed in each of the 54 Lawn rooms as well as rooms on the West Range to give out treats donated and distributed by some 70 student groups and organizations.

Students and faculty also handed out books and provided children and adults with sensory sensitivities some friendly spaces to be during the event.

The university even offered free parking for families attending the event in the University Hall and John Paul Jones Arena parking lots and in the Arts Grounds garage on Culbreth Road.

But the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks in the community and on Grounds, and recommendations from national public health experts led to the event’s demise.

“Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Halloween, Día de Los Muertos, Navratri, Diwali, and Thanksgiving will likely need to be different this fall to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” CDC officials said in a Sept. 20 post on the organization’s website. “Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.”

CDC officials said high risk activities include traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door; events where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots; crowded costume parties; indoor haunted houses; and hayrides or tractor rides.

As low-risk options, the CDC recommends carving or decorating pumpkins with family or outdoors with neighbors providing there is proper social distancing and mask wearing; decorating your home; walking from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance; virtual Halloween costume contests; family scary movie night; and family-only around-the-house trick-or-treating.

Moderate-risk options presented by the CDC include one-way trick-or-treating with individually wrapped goodie bags to grab-and-go while continuing to social distance; small group, socially distanced open-air costume parades; outdoor costume parties providing protective masks and social distancing are in place; and an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.

“If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus,” officials wrote.

Officials also noted that costume masks are not substitutes for cloth masks.

“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,” officials wrote. “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.”

Hendrick said the increased popularity of the trick-or-treat tradition makes it more likely to have a large crowd on the Lawn and in the room doorways.

“While this cancellation is disappointing, we also recognize that the most important way to care for the community at this time is by ensuring that we can all stay as safe as possible,” Hendrick said.


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