Murphy: Jersey Shore beaches will be open in time for Memorial Day weekend

KYW Staff
May 14, 2020 - 1:20 pm

UPDATED: 4:32 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday at his daily coronavirus press briefing that the Jersey Shore will be open in time for Memorial Day weekend.

The governor stressed that social distancing guidelines will stay in place, adding that state officials are able to make the move only because data collected on infection rate trends suggests it can be done safely.

“The Shore is central to our Jersey identity, and we want to ensure that families can safely enjoy it this summer,” he said via Twitter.

Murphy said also that restroom facilities at parks will be reopened as long as they can ensure frequent and proper cleaning. Gatherings such as concerts and fireworks will be prohibited. 

The reopenings will take effect on May 22.

Towns will be in charge of capacity controls, according to Murphy.

“We know there is no one size fits all approach. However, some restrictions do fit across the board. 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.

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Sunbathing and swimming will be allowed. 

While these changes take effect in a week, Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio said his town will try them out this weekend along with Ocean City and Strathmere.

“I think everyone’s going to be able to police themselves. I think they’re going to be happy that they’re finally allowed to get out. There’s a lot of cabin fever going on right now,” Desiderio said.

Wildwood and North Wildwood quietly allowed full beach access last weekend, and Delaware’s beaches will open, with restrictions, over Memorial Day weekend.

State health officials reported an additional 1,216 positive COVID-19 test results since Wednesday’s briefing, bringing the statewide total to 142,704. As Murphy reported the deaths of 244 more New Jersey residents from COVID-19 complications and a statewide total of 9,946 people, he predicted the state would pass the "solemn milestone" of 10,000 dead by Friday.

"Let’s never forget the lives we’ve lost," said the governor.

In South Jersey alone, there are 14,751 recorded COVID-19 cases and 787 deaths.

Murphy noted the ongoing crisis in the nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the state, announcing that, by week's end, the U.S. Veterans Administration will send health care teams to assist the staffs of five such facilities through June. 

Murphy said social distancing is working. 

Since the peak of the coronavirus crisis, hospitalizations have dropped by about two-thirds, and the number of patients in intensive care and on ventilators has dropped significantly.

However, lest New Jersey residents should think they can ease up on distancing guidelines, Murphy offered a sobering statistic: Compared against the region and other states with large populations, Murphy said at this moment New Jersey is the most-impacted state in the region.

“This is why we need to keep up with social distancing, even as we begin our restart and recovery.”

Murphy also stated that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is on track to clear 140,000 residents’ unemployment claims from its considerable backlog this week.

An additional 70,000 unemployment applications were filed this week, bringing the state total to 1.1 million.

Help for renters

The city of Newark is offering residents suffering economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic up to $1,000 to help with rent or utility payments.

Mayor Ras Baraka signed an executive order Wednesday. The program is being administered by the city's Economic Housing Development Department and the Newark Housing Authority and uses a $1 million emergency fund using federal grants. Applications will be available beginning on Monday.

The city also announced it is imposing a temporary moratorium on rent increases for rent-controlled tenants until no later than two months following the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency. The moratorium will prevent increases for items such as for parking, pets, the use of furniture and security, damage and cleaning deposits.

Six Flags

Six Flags Great Adventure says it will soon reopen its drive-through safari now that Murphy has allowed drive-by activities. No opening date has yet been set, as the Jackson Township theme park is finalizing plans for it.

The safari operated as a self-guided drive-through experience from 1974 through 2012. Since 2013, Great Adventure has offered guided truck tours through the park.

Returning to a drive-through format enables guests to enjoy the Safari's 1,200 exotic animals from their vehicles while allowing for proper social distancing. Tickets must be reserved in advance online.

Six Flags' theme park and water park will remain temporarily closed until further notice.

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KYW Newsradio's David Madden and Eric Walter, as well as the Associated Press, contributed to this report.