By Gloria Stravelli
METUCHEN – Effective today, Aug. 2, anyone working at, or visiting, borough buildings is required to wear a face mask, according to borough officials, who cite an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases in the borough for a return to the protocol.
“I don’t think anybody really knows exactly what’s going on,” Mayor Jonathan Busch said in an interview on July 30. “We’re obviously incredibly concerned that the pandemic has taken a turn in a way that people didn’t expect and we’re just trying to – as we have throughout the pandemic – bob and weave with the punches.
“I think we’ve been successful as a community to this point and there’s no reason to believe that we won’t continue to be so long as we take the proper precautions.
“We decided on our own,” he said. “We’re proud of the way the community has responded thus far and we want to continue to make sure we stay ahead of the curve.”
Middlesex County reported as of July 30 that 100 new cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported within the previous 24 hours, including three new cases in Metuchen. In total, according to county data, 92,948 cases had been reported in the county, Metuchen accounting for 1,202 cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended a return to wearing face masks.
“People vaccinated against the coronavirus should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the virus is surging, amid growing reports of breakthrough infections of the more contagious Delta variant,” the CDC advised on its website.
In line with the announcement by the CDC, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli strongly recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents wear masks in indoor settings when there is increased risk, citing as examples crowded indoor settings, and indoor activities with close contact with others who may not be fully vaccinated.
“Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the Delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation,” Persichilli said.
Busch initially announced the borough was poised to return to the facemask protocol on his Facebook page last week citing the increase in COVID cases for 2021 over total cases in 2020, and urged residents to get vaccinated.
“The alarming recent increase in COVID infections is not just a national and state trend but it is a local one as well,” the mayor posted on July 28. “In the last week alone, the borough has seen eight positive cases after just two in each of the prior two weeks.
“As a precaution within our control, beginning Monday, Aug. 2, we will require that all visitors and employees wear masks inside borough buildings. The sooner more people are vaccinated, the sooner our lives will return back to normal. Until then, however, this is going to continue to fluctuate.”
Earlier, on July 23, Busch noted that 84% of residents over age 12 had at least one vaccine dose, but cautioned there had been a year-to-year rise in cases.
“It would be a mistake to assume that COVID is no longer a threat to our community. The borough had five positives in June 2021 compared to four positives in June 2020 and we have had eight cases so far in July 2021 compared to six cases in all of July 2020,” he said.