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May 19, 2020

Gov. Wolf discourages Pennsylvania residents from visiting beaches on Memorial Day weekend

Jersey Shore towns can open with restrictions for the holiday, but the governor is questioning the logic of doing so

Beaches Coronavirus
Jersey Shore beaches HughE Dillon/For PhillyVoice

New Jersey's beaches, like this one in Ocean City, will be open for Memorial Day weekend. To help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Jersey Shore town must implement social distancing guidelines that will include limiting the number of people on the beaches and other measures.

With Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of the summer season approaching, people across the region will be eager to get outdoors and enjoy the weather down the shore. 

However, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is discouraging residents from heading to the beach for the holiday weekend because of the to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I wouldn’t go to the beach,” Wolf said when asked by a reporter at a COVID-19 briefing this week. “There are people there who aren’t wearing masks and you’re putting yourself at risk. I wouldn’t do that, I haven’t done that, and I’m not sure why the governors of Maryland and New Jersey have opened their beaches, but they have.”

Wolf’s discouragement of travel to the Jersey Shore comes as all New Jersey beaches will be permitted to reopen by this Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. Social distancing guidelines must be implemented by shore towns. That includes limiting capacity on beaches, implementing 6-foot markers in areas where social distancing is difficult to enforce, strongly encouraging people to wear face coverings, and the prohibition of special events such as concerts, festivals, fireworks, and summer recreational camps.

Families and households may congregate together, but they must distance themselves from other groups. Swimming is permitted, and showers, changing areas, and restrooms can also stay open.

On the boardwalk, restaurants may only offer takeout and delivery services. Arcades, amusement parks, playgrounds, picnic areas, visitor centers, and water fountains must remain closed. Public beaches can also not be turned into de facto private beaches.

Shore towns have been urged to do public outreach campaigns to educate beachgoers on the social distancing and sanitation requirements. Those who are non-compliant will be dealt with on a town-by-town basis, and such punishments could include ticketing and removal from the beach.

Many Jersey Shore towns had already begun to reopen their beaches and boardwalks ahead of the guidance handed down by the state. 

In contrast to Wolf, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that he would like to be on the Jersey Shore over the Memorial Day weekend if the weather is nice.

Wolf’s comments echoed those by Philadelphia official, who on Monday urged city residents to avoid the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day weekend due to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission and the potential to spread it at home, when they return from the shore.

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