New Jersey’s beaches and lakefronts will reopen in time for Memorial Day Weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday.
Some areas of the beach towns will remain closed, including water fountains and other congregate areas. Contact sports will still be prohibited, as will gatherings like concerts and fireworks shows. Arcades and amusement rides will remain closed as well.
Restaurants will remain open, for takeout and curbside pickup only.
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But restrooms, shower pavilions and changing areas will be opened at the beaches. And restrooms at parks will also be opened, as long as they can be thoroughly and regularly sanitized, Murphy said.
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 social distance.
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.
Len Desiderio, mayor of Sea Isle City, joined Murphy at the news conference. Other Shore leaders had worked with the state on reopening plans, and reopening was discussed on a Tuesday call with leaders of 24 shore towns.
Murphy said 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.
This will go into effect on Friday, May 22, 2020.
"After months at home, I know many families, probably measured in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, cannot wait for a day either down the shore or alongside one of our lakes," Murphy said.
He said promising numbers were key to announcing the decision Thursday.
"Memorial Day weekend is still more than a week away, but the data tells us we can make this announcement now," Murphy said.
County leaders had pleaded to Murphy to allow for reopening beaches and local businesses as soon as possible, citing tourism as a massive chunk of the county economy.
Avalon, Stone Harbor and Ventnor opened their beaches for jogging and exercise, but no swimming was permitted. Wildwood opened its boardwalk to visitors last week, the first in Cape May County to do so.
Other beaches like Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant plan to reopen for jogging and exercise this coming Friday.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney weighed in on the New Jersey plan in his daily coronavirus press briefing Thursday.
“I am concerned that people will go into other jurisdictions, become infected and come back and infect other people,” Kenney said.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley weighed in as well, saying the crisis is not behind us just yet.
"Most of the people of Philadelphia never were exposed to this virus, and if we just start doing what we were doing before, it could be much larger than it was before," he said Thursday. "We could have a huge second wave."
Murphy said specifics on how to enforce social distancing will be left up to the local municipalities. Desiderio said Sea Isle City's lifeguards will stay solely focused on swimmers' safety. It will be left up to "goodwill ambassadors" and police to enforce social distancing. The city will have a cohort of police officers riding along the beach on ATVs.
Sea Isle, Ocean City and Strathmere will conduct a "dry run" this coming weekend to test their capacity management techniques, Desiderio said. The shore towns are used to emergencies like storms, but reopening from a pandemic lockdown is unprecedented.
Once the beaches reopen next Friday, swimming will be allowed.
"This is all brand new to us, we are going to be working together," Desiderio said.
Murphy said to expect further news about pools and fishing.