Halloween may be a month away, but Toms River officials are already preparing for the spooky holiday’s traditions to play out against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
Toms River officials on Tuesday said Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill and Police Chief Mitch Little issued guidelines that call for trick-or-treating will take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Halloween, Oct. 31. While towns do not traditionally set aside times for trick-or-treating, pandemic concerns have led local governments to become more involved in the day, and in Toms River, trick-or-treating is normally held on another date to make way for the township’s massive Halloween parade, which was canceled this year.
“We respect that this is an unusual year due to the COVID pandemic, but want to leave the choice to trick-or-treat up to the individual families in our community,” said Hill.
For anyone who does plan to trick-or-treat, township police are asking that they wear a mask or face covering in accordance with CDC guidelines, practice social distancing, carry hand sanitizer and be respectful of those who choose not to participate.
Residents who do not want to participate are encouraged to turn off their front light, close their front door and/or place a sign in front of the home. Residents who do want to participate are being asked to leave their porch lights on.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Sept. 9 that trick-or-treating would not be barred by executive order, however that decision is subject to change depending on the condition of the pandemic at the time.
While there is no official curfew in Toms River, Little said that all trick-or-treaters are being asked to be off town streets by 9 p.m.
Little also cautioned drivers to look out for trick-or-treaters on Oct. 31., and likewise, trick-or-treaters to watch for cars.
“On Oct. 31, motorists should be aware and drive with extra caution,” Little said. “We advise parents to accompany children, always carry a flashlight for safety, stay on sidewalks or as close to the curb as possible and only go to houses where the porch lights are on.”
Special care should also be given to residents who do not want to have close contact with guests.
“We never know what someone is going through, and ask that if a home chooses not to participate in Halloween celebrations, you respectfully move on,” said Little, adding that residents may have pre-existing health conditions or similar concerns that could affect whether they want to closely interact with others.