Out-of-state travelers, crowded beaches raise COVID-19 anxiety in New Jersey

Kimberly Adams
July 05, 2020 - 7:16 pm

UPDATED: July 6, 8 a.m.

MARGATE, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — After a busy holiday weekend down the Shore, Gov. Phil Murphy says, while state health officials are keeping an eye on coronavirus cases there, they’re also concerned about residents picking up COVID-19 from travels out of state.

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The weather was about as good as it gets for the Fourth of July, so a lot of people were on the beaches and boards. 

T.J. Heist, owner of the Jet Drive Exchange in Ocean City, told NBC-10 people couldn’t get enough of the ocean water, and business was booming for him.

“We’re looking to add boats, both to our club and a couple of our other businesses, and the boat inventory is empty. So, that just shows that it’s not just us busy, but really anyone trying to get on the water is having a hard time doing it right now,” Heist said.

However, circumstances at the Shore are far from normal. Indoor dining is still not allowed. Masks are required, whether people comply or not.

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"There are so many people that are scared, but I'm even more scared, because I know what I went through," said part-time Margate resident Lisa Zoks.

She was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April. Zoks said she won that battle, but now she faces new challenges when she goes outdoors with family.

"Definitely a vulnerable population here in Margate. A lot of retirees," she said. "And then they have all of the kids on the beaches running around. It was a free-for-all."

Margate Police Sgt. Joe Scullion says they're doing their best to balance the crowds during the pandemic.

"With the weather being nice, it's very crowded," he said. 

"We're trying to make sure everybody maintains that social distancing. There are restrictions. The restaurants are making sure their customers are wearing masks, all the employees are wearing masks. If people are out in public, that's an area where people don't have to."

But for Zoks, who wears a mask, uses social distancing and donated platelets from her blood to help others in the fight against COVID-19, it's unfair. 

"We worked so hard for those months during lockdown," she said. "We're going to see a spike here again in New Jersey."

Gov. Murphy says we is worried about travelers bringing the virus home from out of state. On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, he said contact tracers were able to link cases to a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

“We absolutely have evidence of folks who were at that wedding who came back up to New Jersey — Jersey folks who were visiting there — and we’ve got other cases that we’re running down. That’s the one that’s most recent and most prevalent,” Murphy said.

South Carolina is one of 16 on the list of states from which travelers must self-quarantine when entering New Jersey. It is one of 15 states on Pennsylvania’s list. Anyone entering Pennsylvania or New Jersey from South Carolina must stay home for 14 days.

“We have to ask people to do the right thing, to be responsible,” Murphy said.

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KYW Newsradio's Tim Jimenez contributed to this report.