The coronavirus outbreak is delaying until fall the National Night Out, the annual community gatherings across Minnesota and the nation meant to strengthen ties between neighbors and law enforcement.

The Minnesota Crime Prevention Association said it is following the recommendation of its national counterpart and encouraging law enforcement across the state to move National Night Out, also known as Night to Unite, from Aug. 4 to Oct. 6.

The move comes as officials work to slow the spread of the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus, which has put sharp limits on public gatherings.

National Night Out began in 1984 and is traditionally held on the first Tuesday in August. The festivities routinely draw police chiefs, sheriffs and elected officials and gives them a chance to mingle with residents.

In the state, it is sponsored by the Minnesota Crime Prevention Association, AAA of Minnesota/Iowa and law enforcement agencies.

The Apple Valley Police Department, among the first to back the delay, said in a statement Thursday, “We value the commitment our community members have made to support this annual crime prevention event, and we will make every effort to follow state guidelines regarding public gatherings with regards to the pandemic in the foreseeable future.”