ROXBURY, NJ – The township will soon issue guidance relating to Halloween, advice that will come in the wake of an increase in local COVID-19 cases Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo characterized Tuesday as “totally unacceptable.”

Township Manager John Shepherd said Roxbury currently has no plan to ban or restrict trick-or-treating, but will likely remind people about the importance of social distancing and face coverings.

“We will be issuing some guidance in the near future for those who want to participate,” Shepherd said via email. “We will leave participation in the event up to homeowners and parents.”

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He said the township’s recommendations, to be made later this week, will take into consideration guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state Department of Health.

Almost 400 Cases

During his “Community Update” on Tuesday, Defillippo spoke about an “increasing and troubling number of COVID cases” in Roxbury.

“At our last council meeting on Sept. 22, we reported that confirmed COVID cases had increased by what, at the time, was considered a large number: 17 people - from 333 to 350 – a significant increase,” said the mayor. “Since then ... confirmed COVID cases have risen sharply to 391. That is 41 new cases in just about two weeks.”

DeFillippo said health experts are attributing part of the increased numbers to college students who test positive at school. Those cases are attributed to Roxbury due to the students’ home addresses, he said.

He also said the rise in cases could also be due to the partial opening of schools and restaurants and “gathering in larger groups more frequently.”

DeFillippo urged people to follow social distancing advice, to continue wearing masks when in public and to continue washing their hands frequently.

Not Time to Relax

He said the “increasing and troubling number of COVID cases in our town” is “totally unacceptable” and frustrating. “We are going in the wrong direction, and we need to double-down on following social distancing guidelines,” DeFillippo said. “No one should be satisfied or complacent about that. We are seeing increases in confirmed cases that we have not seen since the height of the pandemic.”

The mayor said he understands that residents have grown weary.

“Everyone is tired of the pandemic and everyone hates wearing masks,” DeFillippo said. “No argument. But now is not the time to relax how we protect ourselves and our neighbors. Remember, your mask protects your fellow residents, especially the most vulnerable among us, like your parents or your elderly neighbors.  When you think of it that way, it does not seem like a lot to ask.”

He also raised the specter of something that, to most residents, is more frightening than Halloween ghosts and ghouls: A spike in cases that prompts a return to the lockdown orders imposed in March.

“No one wants to go back to the days when everything was shut down,” DeFillippo said. “The only way to prevent that, and to protect ourselves and our neighbors, is for everyone to continue to practice social distancing.”

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