Halloween is a big deal in Telluride, including the annual Telluride School Halloween parade down Colorado Avenue, which has been canceled. San Miguel County public health officials have released a guide to celebrating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Planet file photo)

After weeks of no new COVID-19 cases, recent San Miguel County positive test results have proven that the virus isn’t going anywhere. On Friday, there were four new cases reported, and another test came back positive on Tuesday. The county case count is now at 94, with three active cases.

Last week the four new positive cases included one non-resident individual, a 47-year-old male, who is symptomatic and in isolation, and three resident individuals with symptoms, including a 63-year-old male, a 30-year-old male and a 26-year-old female. From test results received Friday through Monday, the latest case is that of a 72-year-old male, who is asymptomatic and in isolation. He is a “close contact” of a known positive through social circumstances. Non-residents are not included in the county’s case count.

County public health director Grace Franklin said the latest handful of cases was “a pretty sustainable trend,” and that officials are “hoping it’s just a blip.”

Samples taken at the Telluride Wastewater Treatment plant and sent to Fort Collins lab GT Molecular revealed a downward trend over last week’s noticeable spike. The virus, which is shed in human feces, can discern trends in viral presence, which can guide public health officials as they make policy decisions. Franklin reported the numbers were down, but not as low as when testing began in mid-September.

At Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, Franklin also touched on Halloween, a local page on the calendar that BOCC chair Hilary Cooper described as “a really big deal,” noting that families from communities outside the county attend with regularity. As with anything else that has been impacted by the global pandemic, Franklin reminded the board that the holiday will — and should be — unlike how it’s been celebrated in years past.

“Staying home is always the safest approach,” she told the board.

Not only will costumed trick-or-treaters need to conduct themselves safely, but those doling out the sugary goods need to take precautions as well. Anyone ill, especially with COVID symptoms, or have recently tested positive, or are in isolation, should not participate in any in-person activities, including handing out candy.

Also, even though costumes are de rigeur for the night, costume masks alone won’t cut it. The face covering that has become the standard accessory since March can be incorporated into a costume “by adding whiskers or glitter,” a recent news release suggests.

Activities at home are the best choice, public health officials advise, or failing that, celebrating outdoors in small groups, preferably established family or roommate pods.

Unfortunately, the tradition of going door to door for a sweet reward is the least recommended of Halloween activities in this coronavirus-impacted year.

“Handing out candy in the traditional format will bring you and many other households into close contact,” is the best approach, according to the news release. “Talk with your neighbors and get creative this year in order to protect you and those you love. Individually wrap treat bags and line them up at the end of your driveway or sidewalk and watch the fun from a distance.”

Franklin further reiterated that lack of contact is effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Stay within your neighborhood,” she said Wednesday, and at a safe distance. “Avoid having people on your deck or front porch.”

Additionally, the day’s biggest event, the Telluride school Halloween parade down Colorado Avenue, has been canceled.

In other health news, Franklin said once the flu shot clinic’s reservations went live it was booked solid. The first of many free community flu vaccine clinics begins today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The clinic will take place outside, in the alley behind the Miramonte Building in Telluride.

Franklin wrapped her health update with a report that the state is now accepting COVID protocol plans from ski resorts, including Telluride Ski Resort’s document. Telski has been working with local officials as well as receiving guidance from the state on how it plans to protect the health and safety of its guests and employees. The document includes numerous considerations such as expanded outdoor dining, online ticketing, revised ski school protocols and a host of other new ways of doing business. Bottom line, the resort’s report read, the resort has the ability to spread guests out over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. Further, the resort will “adjust precautions as needed to remain in line with the latest county and state updates.”

The commissioners unanimously approved sending Telski’s COVID operations plan to the state.