In the Rio Grande Valley, Halloween is more than just a one-night affair; it starts a three-day commemoration that extends through All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day — el Dia de los Muertos, a combination of both religious and secular traditions. That means many Valley residents won’t simply be out collecting candy or gathering for Halloween parties, they also will hold other get-togethers or gather at local cemeteries to pay their respects to family members and friends, or at homes to recite rosaries or practice other commemorations.

In addition, many public venues are holding traditional Halloween events, from haunted houses and parties that were canceled a year ago, as restrictions on public outings and gatherings continue to be eased and residents enjoy freedoms they might not have had during the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though those restrictions are being dropped and the pandemic no longer leads most newscasts, it’s important to remember that the risk of catching the deadly virus. Even though the Valley leads the state in the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many people remain unvaccinated and more than 100 new cases of the disease are reported across the Valley every day, with several daily deaths. Thus, it’s important to continue to take precautions that have helped many people avoid contagion so far.

Fortunately, the matter of wearing masks is less of an issue on Halloween than on other days.

Of course, most Halloween masks are little protection. Most have cutouts that help people breathe, and so they don’t filter out any germs, including most COVID-19 cells.

More importantly, health care officials have always insisted that the best protection against the spread of COVID-19 and any other germ is to simply practice good hygiene. That is why during the first days of the pandemic they spent so much time talking about cleaning and disinfecting countertops and other surfaces, and even offered tutorials on the best way to wash our hands — something most of us thought we already new and usually did almost without thinking.

As our social interaction increases and we spend more time at places outside our homes and gatherings with mixed groups, it’s important to maintain any good habits we developed to protect us from infection.

When we go out, whether it’s to a public event of a private party or ceremony, we should remember that anyone at the gathering could carry the virus or another disease. Thus, it’s a good idea to carry a disinfectant solution with us and apply it to door handles, countertops and other surfaces that others might have touched, or to clean our hands after we’ve touched those surfaces.

These days, when death is a topic of revelry, reflection and commemoration, are significant to many Valley residents and other people who keep Hispanic traditions. But we don’t need to court death when we gather for those commemorations.

Let’s all pledge to have the most safe and healthy Halloween and Dia de los Muertos possible.