Murphy says all Jersey Shore beaches will open by Memorial Day
TRENTON — The new Jersey Shore credo this summer: GTLM — Gym, Tan, Laundry and Mask.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday announced that all Jersey Shore and lakeside beaches would be open in time for Memorial Day weekend.
"Down the shore everything's all right," Murphy said quoting Jersey's native son Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. "Even in these challenging times, that is exactly as it should be."
The announcement reopening beaches on Friday, May 22, comes two weeks after the state reopened state parks and forests for the first time in a month, and a day after Murphy announced that non-essential businesses would be able to offer curbside service starting Monday. Events with vehicles are also now allowed, paving the way for drive-in theaters and drive-thru funeral services.
Murphy said the decisions follow several weeks of declining hospitalizations and new deaths from COVID-19, although the densely populated state continues to be among the hardest hit in the nation.
Murphy's recent orders come as Republican lawmakers and businesses leaders have been pressing for greater loosening of the pandemic restrictions. During his announcement Thursday, Murphy acknowledged the reality that the Jersey Shore is a major driver of the state's economy.
The open beaches come with rules that New Jersey residents have begun to get used to elsewhere: Social distancing is a must except for families and households. No recreational activities or contact sports. No games or amusement rides on the boardwalks.
Face coverings are not required while lying under the sun, but Murphy said he recommends wearing one "while waiting in line for a slice of boardwalk pizza."
Boardwalks will be open for food vendors, which can provide take-out service.
Restrooms, changing rooms and showers also will be reopened, as will restrooms at all state parks.
Visitor centers, however, will remain closed.
As of now, the orders still prohibit fireworks, concerts, festivals and any event that would attract crowds of people.
And while municipal beaches will not be allowed to turn away non-residents, as some communities had tried to do last month, the beaches will have to limit the number of people allowed on the sand, either through limiting the number of daily beach tags or other methods that local authorities will have to devise.
Murphy said the order does not apply to chartered fishing or to pool facilities, although he said "guidance" would be released on those in the coming days.
"We want everyone to have fun but we need everyone to be safe," Murphy said, adding that this was "not a life sentence. We could have dramatically different reality a month from today."
"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."