COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Thursday kicks off Halloween festivities across Central Ohio as dozens of communities host trick-or-treating. This year, the CDC has given the greenlight to the holiday tradition after a year of heightened safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I definitely think there is an advantage to this season versus last year because of the vaccine, but I don’t want people to let their guard down,” said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.

The CDC defines COVID-19 exposure as being within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more. Dr. Roberts says going door-to-door and handing out candy pose relatively low risks, but she encourages parents to take precautions, especially for unvaccinated children.

“Parents should remember that outside is better than inside,” she said. “So if you’re thinking about having a party, try to have it outside. When your kids are doing the trick-or-treating, they’re going door to door, they should really try to keep those group sizes to a minimum.”

Roberts also encourages parents and children to wear masks and wash hands or use hand sanitizer before consuming any treats. Importantly, she reminds everyone to heed the signs and symptoms of the virus.

“If you’re having any symptoms, stay home. Please don’t go to work, don’t go to social activities where you could be exposing other people,” she said.

The health commissioner recommends both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines for anyone who hasn’t already received the shots, explaining now is a critical time to get vaccinated ahead of the upcoming holiday season.