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March 30, 2020

Stay away from our Jersey Shore towns during pandemic, Cape May County mayors say

Leaders in Wildwoods, Stone Harbor, Sea Isle, Ocean City and elsewhere want to stop beach rentals and keep shore house owners away

Coronavirus Government
jersey shore rental coronavirus Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

In Cape May County, the mayors of each town wants to halt short term rentals and for shore house to stay at their primary residences until New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy removes social-distancing guidelines. Above is a file photo of the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Short-term shore rentals in Cape May County need to be halted for as long as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's coronavirus social-distancing guidelines are in place, the mayors of all the county's municipalities agreed on Monday.

The same goes for shore house owners. They need to stay at their primary residences until the pandemic is under control, "in an abundance of caution and concern for everyone's safety and well-being." the mayors collectively said.

"First, we are strongly urging the elimination of all short-term rentals for the duration of the Governor's executive orders, which continue indefinitely until rescinded," the 16 Cape May County mayors said in a joint statement. "This appeal is made to all realtors, online rental platforms, and individuals. Hotels and motels are considered to be essential services and we ask that they rent only to individuals who are performing essential functions per the Governor's executive orders, not to traditional tourists."

The mayors represent the municipalities of Avalon, Cape May Point, Cape May, Dennis Township, Lower Township, Middle Township, North Wildwood, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor, Upper Township, West Cape May, West Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, and Woodbine.

Murphy signed an executive order on March 21 urging state residents to stay at home to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The order also mandated that all non-essential businesses close and banned gatherings of all sizes.

The governor already has urged people who own second homes at the Jersey Shore to stay at their primary residences during his stay-at-home order. An influx of people would strain the local infrastructure, particularly the health care system.

Early on in the pandemic, the Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton was the first to tell would-be beachgoers to stay away as the virus spread. Thornton noted that the additional people in the county would stress grocery stores and the county health system. The mayors agreed.

"Coastal mayors have been forced to make difficult and unpopular decisions, including closing playgrounds and outdoor recreational facilities; some towns have been forced to close beaches and boardwalks, and others may follow suit, simply because social distancing guidance has been ignored," mayors' statement said, "We recognize that individuals love to visit the coastal region, and want to visit their second homes for a change of scenery. That travel is contrary to the executive orders enacted by the Governor, and contrary to the guidance from health officials to stay at home as much as possible."

Ocean City closed its boardwalk and beaches last week. Sea Isle City has also halted all short-term rentals offerings by online marketplaces until further notice and suspended all short-term rentals in the town through April.

Further north, Seaside Heights, Ocean County, has shut down its beach and non-essential business on its boardwalk, as well as banned all rentals by online marketplaces until further notice. Point Pleasant, Ocean County, Spring Lake, Monmouth County, Belmar, Monmouth County, Bradley Beach, Monmouth County, and Long Branch, Monmouth County have closed their boardwalks.

Beach access currently is allowed in certain locations in Spring Lake and Point Pleasant, but Point Pleasant is considering stopping rentals this summer. Asbury Park, Monmouth County has also banned all short-term rentals indefinitely.

Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control issued a Domestic Travel Advisory for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. It recommends residents of those states "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately." The travel notice does not apply to workers and employees of essential business .

The Cape May County Freeholders, led by Thornton, on Monday said the board supports the positions outlined by the county's mayors. 

"County leadership applauds our municipal leaders for taking a proactive approach as we all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19", Thornton said. "We are very supportive of this practical and reasonable approach to coping with pandemic and urge everyone to follow the directives coming from the Office of the Governor and health officials."

New Jersey has 16,636 confirmed coronavirus cases, the second-most of any state, and 198 deaths as a result of the virus as of Monday afternoon. Of those cases, 520 are in South Jersey. Cape May County has nine COVID-19 patients, compared to 200 in Camden County and 178 Burlington County.

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