Crowds descend on Stone Crab Jam

In 2016, crowds visit the many and varied vendors on their way to the waterfront at the ninth annual Stone Crab Jam in downtown Crystal River. Presented by the Kings Bay Rotary Club, the annual festival offers clothing, artwork, trinkets, souvenirs, beer, wine, music and plenty of food to choose from, including stone crabs.

As Citrus enters into a new meeting and event season, many have turned to canceling their annual events and social gatherings for the remainder of the year, or adapting to a virtual format amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida’s public health officials currently suggest that the general public continue to avoid any gathering of more than 10 people to limit their potential exposure to coronavirus — and that puts many of the beloved annual events in Citrus at risk of cancellation.

“The biggest thing you have to worry about is the more people you have, and the longer that they’re interacting together, the higher the risk,” said Audrey Stasko, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Citrus County. “The higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and the higher risk of spreading it.”

Crowd favorites like the Kings Bay Rotary Charitable Foundation’s Stone Crab Jam, the Central Citrus Rotary’s Black Diamond Invitational Car Show, and Floral City Heritage Council’s annual Heritage Days have all been canceled this year in caution of the virus.

“Public health officials definitely suggest either cancelling gatherings greater than 10 or moving it to a virtual setting,” Stasko said. “You don’t want to put the people that are at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19 in a place where they could potentially get it and spread it. That’s really important.”

Many Citrus community groups entering the fall event season are contemplating hosting their events and meetings in an alternative fashion, or just canceling them completely. Stasko suggests groups and event organizers keep up-to-date on the latest public health advisories, and also check out the CDC website www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or https://tinyurl.com/y4qeh5ht.

“The CDC really breaks it down pretty nicely for event organizers as far as what they need to be thinking about, about what they need to be considering,” Stasko said.

“There’s actually a tab that has considerations for events and gatherings,” Stasko said. “It has a frequently asked questions page, and that is also going to provide you with an events and gatherings readiness and planning tool. It’s sort of like a little check list for people.”

Stasko said there are precautions community clubs can take to prevent the transmission of the virus as they continue to meet in-person.

“Outdoors is better than indoors,” Stasko said. “Even if you can’t get outdoors, we suggest opening up the doors and windows. The better ventilation you have and the more air you have coming from outside is better.”

The FDOH also suggests social distancing, wearing a face covering, keeping the right supplies on hand to practice good hygiene, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least daily or between uses, making sure people aren’t sharing items, and limiting the number of people you come into contact with.

“If you’re in these groups that are at higher risk (65 and older or with underlying or chronic health conditions), you definitely want to limit your interactions as much as possible,” Stasko said.

“The more people you have, the longer you’re together, the higher the risk,” Stasko said.

Contact Chronicle Community Editor Gwen Bittner at 352-563-3224 or gwen.bittner@chronicleonline.com.