N.J. to open Shore, lake areas in time for Memorial Day weekend

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday that the Shore — and all lakes — will be open for Memorial Day weekend.

There will be restrictions, however, including:

  • Capacity and admissions limitations — though Murphy said no public beaches can restrict anyone from entering before the capacity is reached. In other words, no holding space for members of a certain community;
  • 6-foot demarcations in certain areas;
  • No special events — meaning no concerts or other festivals;
  • Playgrounds, rides, arcades, water fountains and picnic areas remain closed.

The good news: Restaurants will be allowed to be open for takeout only.

And, perhaps more importantly, restrooms will be open — and subject to increased cleaning.

Murphy said the state is still waiting to make a decision on public pools and fishing charters, saying he expects to have an answer in coming days.

As for face coverings, Murphy said the state is not specifically ordering it, but he highly recommends a mask, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as when waiting in line for a boardwalk pizza.

Murphy said the state was able to open the Shore beaches due to the increasingly good data on the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Murphy announced that hospitalizations dropped under 4,000. The total is now at 3,958.

“As with all our decisions, we followed our core principles — data determines dates, and public health creates economic health,” he said. “Just as importantly, the steps we are taking today are also coordinated with our neighbors in Delaware, New York and Connecticut. This is an approach that is absolutely essential to our futures — both as individual states, and as a region.”

Murphy said safety still comes first.

“We want everyone to have fun, but we need everyone to be safe,” he said. “To accomplish both, we will be requiring restrictions on how many beachgoers may be allowed on any beach or lakefront. And, the social distancing we have been practicing in our hometowns will be extended to our beach communities.

“And, to be clear, no one will be discriminated against. No community can turn a public beach into a de facto private one. All visitors must have the ability to enjoy our state’s greatest natural resource.”

Murphy said enforcement of all issues will fall to local communities.

“Every beach will be required to establish capacity limitations, but we will leave it to local leaders to determine the method that would be best for their community,” he said. “This can be done through methods including limiting the numbers of available beach tags for any given day, or through utilizing technology — such as with a geographic spatial analysis.

“Social distancing measures — requiring at least 6-foot distances between beachgoers — will be enforced, except for family groups, household members, caretakers or couples. And, again, we will leave it to local officials to determine how best to implement these measures. Each of our Shore and lake communities have unique characteristics, and we know there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Murphy said it will be a different Shore, one with no public parties or boardwalk games.

“Organized games and contact sports will be prohibited, as will beach recreational summer camps, and special events that draw people to the beach, such as concerts, festivals or fireworks,” he said.

“On our boardwalks, restaurants may continue to operate for takeout and delivery only, but the rides, arcades, games and other draws must remain closed. Other features that are meant to draw a crowd — a water fountain, playground, or visitor and interpretive center — must similarly remain closed for the time-being.”

Restrooms, however, will be open.

“Sanitation also will be of great importance, especially since this order will allow for shower pavilions, changing areas and restrooms to remain open for visitors —and they must be properly and regularly cleaned,” he said.

Murphy said the restroom rule will apply to parks, too.

Murphy reiterated the opening is based upon data.

“Public health determines economic health,” he said. “Our Shore economy is a tremendous driver of local jobs and revenues. Because of the work of millions of New Jerseyans to slow the spread and flatten and lower the curves, we can confidently take this step today.

“And, data determines dates. Memorial Day weekend is still more than a week away, but the data tells us we can make this announcement now.

“After months at home, I know many families cannot wait for a day down the Shore or alongside one of our lakes. I am proud that we are now able to give them that day — a day they worked so hard to make possible.”

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