New Jersey's beloved beaches will be open in time for Memorial Day but with additional restrictions aimed at mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governor Phil Murphy announced Thursday.
The Garden State will also allow non-essential construction to resume on Monday, May 18, along with curbside order pickup for retailers as well as drive-in and drive-thru events that practice social distancing.
The shore opening goes into effect on May 22.
While New Jersey is arguably the single most-impacted state in America due to the pandemic, Murphy cited "enormous" and "unmistakeable" progress in slowing the spread of the virus.
Beaches and lakefronts must limit the number of people given access so people can appropriately social distance. Families and households may cluster together, but otherwise people need to stay at least six feet apart.
"We have confidence that residents and out-of-state visitors can take in a day at the beach safely," Murphy said, noting the eight-day "runway" shore communities will have to prepare.
While there is no official mandate, officials "highly recommend" that beachgoers bring face coverings with them for situations where social distancing is not possible. Murphy added that officials are reviewing protocols for public pools.
Washrooms at the shore and in state and county parks have also been ordered to reopen, with an additional emphasis placed on cleaning those facilities.
Restaurants along the shore will be allowed to reopen for takeout and delivery only. Other attractions, like concerts and arcades will remain closed for the time being.
Murphy said he is holding out hope for an even more significant change for the positive in the next few weeks.
The number of COVID-19 patients being currently being treated in New Jersey hospitals dropped below 4,000 for the first time in over a month. During the outbreak's peak in April more than 8,000 New Jerseyans were hospitalized with symptoms.
Murphy said other metrics also have officials encouraged about allowing increased economic activity as summer weather arrives.
But the state isn't "out of the woods" yet, he cautioned, and people must continue to take social distancing seriously.
By Thursday, the number of total confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was over 141,000. The number of COVID-19 deaths sat at 9,946.
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