What to Know
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says he is lifting the limit on outdoor gatherings from 10 people to 25 and that Memorial Day cookouts can go forward if people maintain social distancing.
- Public and private campgrounds may also reopen, Murphy said Friday, citing continuing positive trends in the state’s coronavirus data.
- Murphy says indoor gatherings are still limited to 10 people.
New Jersey is lifting restrictions on how many people can gather outside for a cookout or camping trip just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he would sign an executive order that increases the restriction on people gathering outdoors from 10 to 25. The first-term Democrat also allowed recreational campgrounds, both public and private, to reopen immediately.
“If you’re looking forward to gathering with your neighbors for a Memorial Day cookout, you may do so, as long as social distancing and personal responsibility remain the order of the day,” he said.
The new 25-person limit applies to outdoor recreational activities like batting cages, charter fishing and driving ranges that are now also permitted.
Indoor gatherings remain capped at 10.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted the desire of people to gather for camping and cookouts, but urged people to practice social distance. She said people should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer prior to touching their mask and should remain at least 6 feet apart. She suggested washing your face covering after use.
The new executive order doesn't cover outdoor restaurant dining and graduations, Murphy said. He hoped to have guidance on each at some point in the future.
The gathering limit increase came as New Jersey’s beaches reopened in time for the weekend regarded as the unofficial start of summer. It won't look like a normal holiday weekend at the Jersey Shore due to the coronavirus pandemic.
We break down what you can and can't do at the Jersey Shore (and at lakefronts) starting Friday.
What Is Allowed at Jersey Shore Towns?
You can relax on the sand and go into the Atlantic Ocean, but capacity measures are in place on the beaches.
Restaurants are open for takeout and curbside pickup only.
Restrooms, shower pavilions and changing areas will be open at the beaches. And restrooms at parks will also be open, as long as they can be thoroughly and regularly sanitized, Murphy said.
All beach towns must have the capacity measures in place, but they can't bar access from certain groups of people, like out-of-state visitors, who show up to use a public beach, Murphy said.
What Will Not Be Allowed?
Some areas of the beach towns will remain closed, including water fountains and other congregate areas. Contact sports are prohibited, as are events like concerts and fireworks shows.
Playground, picnic areas and water play areas won't be open. Arcades and amusement rides will remain closed as well.
Murphy also urged towns to set limits on the amount of daily beach badges they sell. And beachgoers will be encouraged to wear masks and socially distance groups at least 6 feet apart.
Beaches had shut down months ago as part of a statewide stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the shutdowns were slowly being lifted on a town-by-town basis.
Murphy said last week that the state was “ensuring that the Jersey Shore can be open to families across our states and region,” and that it can be done safely. The beaches will be open both to state residents and out-of-state visitors.
Murphy himself plans on being on the boardwalk in one shore town this weekend, he said Friday.
Sea Isle, Ocean City and Strathmere conducted a "dry run" of new safety measures last weekend to test their capacity management techniques. There were waves of people, some in masks and some not, in the shore towns.
This weekend, beachgoers could look up to see banner plans reminded them to remain aware of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Philadelphia Officials Warn Against a Trip to the Jersey Shore
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is not urging Philadelphians to escape to the shore this weekend.
“I am concerned that people will go into other jurisdictions, become infected and come back and infect other people,” Kenney said last week.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley weighed in as well, saying the crisis is not behind us just yet.
COVID-19 Cases in New Jersey
For several weeks, key metrics like hospitalizations, ICU patients and daily positivity rates have been declining in New Jersey, leading Murphy to slowly lift restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the deadly virus.
On Friday, New Jersey reported about 1,400 new positive cases overnight, putting the overall figure at about 153,000. There were 146 deaths reported overnight, pushing the death toll to 10,985.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.
New Jersey Faces $10-Million Budget Gap
New Jersey faces a $10 billion revenue gap, Murphy said Friday. That's roughly a quarter of the state's nearly $40 billion budget. He said open minds are needed to find solutions to the fiscal crisis.
The Democrat-led Legislature and Murphy extended the fiscal year from June 30 to September 30 earlier this year.
Treasurer Liz Muoio is scheduled to give an update later on Friday.
Atlantic City Reopening Hotels
Atlantic City’s mayor says hotels and online rental marketplaces may resume operations on May 29.
Marty Small made the announcement Friday. But there’s a big caveat: The order does not apply to the city’s nine casino hotels.
Hotels owned and operated by the casinos must remain closed until the state Division of Gaming Enforcement allows them to reopen. So far, no date has been set for the casinos to reopen. Earlier this week, Murphy, speaking of casino reopenings, said, “We’re just not there yet.”