May 14, 2020
New Jersey beaches will be open in time for Memorial Day weekend. But summer days down the shore might feel different for a while.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Thursday requiring Jersey Shore towns implement stringent social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak. The measures take effect on May 22.
Under the new rules, beaches must limit capacity. That measure can be taken by limiting the number of available beach tags per day, Murphy said. Public beaches can also not be turned into de facto private beaches, he said.
Families and households may congregate together, but they must distance themselves from other groups. Six-foot markers must be placed in areas where social distancing is difficult to enforce. Special events such as concerts, festivals, beach recreational summers camps, and fireworks remain banned, but swimming is permitted. 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. Face masks will not be required, but are highly encouraged.
"The Shore is central to our Jersey identity and we want to ensure that families can safely enjoy it this summer," Murphy said.
Murphy also urged shore towns to implement public outreach campaigns—such as through online advertisements and planes—to educate beachgoers on their 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.
The decision to reopen beaches was made after discussions with officials from Monmouth, Atlantic, Ocean and Cape May counties. The social distancing requirements were made in accordance with Delaware, Connecticut and New York.
Calling the guidance "a big step" in the state's reopening process, Murphy said that New Jersey's residents have earned it for their ability to practice social distancing and flatten the curve.
"We are living through unprecedented times, but we have confidence that residents and out of state visitors alike can take in a day at the beach safely, so long as the measures we are announcing today are followed," Murphy said.
The order came as many Jersey Shore towns had already begun to reopen their beaches and boardwalks.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many Jersey Shore towns took steps to keep visitors and second-home owners from visiting. Those measures included beach closures and bans on short-term rentals.
Likewise, Murphy implored people to stay away from the beach towns until the pandemic had passed, citing the strain that an influx of people would have on local health systems. He also gave municipalities the authority to ban short-term rentals.
Murphy's shore guidelines marked the latest step toward reopening the economy.
Earlier this month, golf courses and parks reopened with social distancing measures in place. Beginning Monday, all retail stores will be able to offer curbside pickup and delivery service, but customers will not be allowed inside.
Last month, Murphy released a six-step reopening plan that called for enhance COVID-19 testing, robust contact tracing and a responsible economic restart, among other factors.
New Jersey officials reported an additional 1,216 COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the state's total to 142,704 cases. There were another 244 fatalities, increasing the death toll to 9,946. South Jersey has 14,751 cases and 786 deaths.