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Trick-or-Treating canceled in Ohio, Marshall counties over rising COVID-19 concerns

Ohio County now gold in state COVID map; Marshall County orange

WHEELING — The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Saturday morning canceled all Halloween events, including Trick-or-Treating, as the county has entered “gold” status due to rising cases of COVID-19.

The Marshall County Health Department did the same, as the county there is now “orange” in the state map.

But the cancellation of events likely won’t stop people from Trick-or-Treating Saturday evening, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble admitted.

“People will be out tonight. This decision just happened, and it will be difficult to get the information to everyone quickly,” he said of the cancellation, which also includes events such as community Trick or Trunks.

Gamble said despite the order, he won’t be surprised to see many smaller neighborhoods have informal Trick-or-Treating with neighbors visiting neighbors.

While Gamble couldn’t speak directly to how municipalities would attempt to enforce people being out this evening, he said the goal is more about educating the public as to why it is important to limit possible community spread of COVID-19 — which he believes is actively happening in both Ohio and Marshall counties right now.

“Halloween is a very social and traditional event, so we’re hoping to see a lot of advising tonight if people are out. Our goal is education, not necessarily enforcement, and I believe our police departments and municipalities will do the same tonight for those who are out,” he said.

Over the past week, Ohio and Marshall counties combined have added nearly 200 new cases of COVID-19. A release from the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department said that all county health departments in the Northern Panhandle agreed on uniform guidance for Halloween events. As long as a county was green or yellow, those events could proceed. In gold, orange or red, those events would be canceled.

Gamble said the move is being done to slow COVID-19’s community spread in the region.

“Ohio County and Marshall County are at the top of the Northern Panhandle right now in terms of new cases in a short period of time,” Gamble said. “Ohio and Marshall counties have community spread — these new cases are not coming from an outbreak on a team, or at a school or long-term care facility. They’re coming from community spread.”

Gamble said the department and others discussed in September what to do with large-scale community events such as Halloween, school homecomings and Christmas parades if COVID-19 was actively spreading. He said that plan was forwarded to all municipalities so they could plan for a situation such as Halloween events being canceled.

“The reality is that if we have massive community spread, there are some things we can’t do,” Gamble said, noting his own young children won’t be happy with the decision. “This is not something any of us like to do.”

The village of Bethlehem already has contacted the health department looking for options on possibly rescheduling some type of Halloween celebration, Gamble said.

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