All of New Jersey’s beaches can reopen on May 22, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday, in a move that gives the state’s coastal resort areas a full week to prepare for Memorial Da – a holiday that normally draws thousands of tourists to the beach.
“The Jersey Shore will be open in time for Memorial Day Weekend, with social distancing guidelines in place,” Murphy said at a news conference Thursday. “The Shore is central to our Jersey identity and we want to ensure that families can safely enjoy it this summer.”
New Jersey has confirmed more than 142,700 COVID-19 cases, and the rate of positive cases to overall tests is at 22%, Murphy said. Nearly 10,000 people have died from the disease. But, Murphy added, the rate at which the coronavirus is spreading has continued to slow down across the state.
Social distancing has played a key role in controlling COVID-19, Murphy said, adding that it will be important to maintain those practices as the state loosens shutdown restrictions.
Reflecting the balancing act many local and state leaders are now forced to perform across the U.S. because of the pandemic, Murphy urged caution, even as he laid out a plan for reopening a vital area for the state’s hospitality industry
“We are not out of the woods yet,” Murphy said. “We can make the cast that, at this moment in time, we’re 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.”
Noting several positive trends for the state’s fight agains the coronavirus, Murphy said the rate of new hospitalizations is down by nearly two-thirds from peak levels, and the number of patients in intensive care has dropped by roughly 40%.
A number of Jersey Shore beaches have remained open during the pandemic, seeking to limit crowds and urging visitors to follow physical distancing guidelines or to use the beach only for exercise.
Huge crowds of people visited the Shore for last year’s Memorial Day holiday, lured by ideal sunny weather. The visitors quickly filled state parks and beaches to capacity – forcing the state Division of Parks & Forestry to close some facilities temporarily.