Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state’s beaches would reopen under some restrictions as early as next week Thursday.
“We want everyone to have fun, but we need everyone to be safe,” he said. “To accomplish both, we will be requiring restrictions on how any beachgoers may be allowed on any beach or lake front, and the social distancing we’ve been practicing in our hometowns will be extended to our beaches.”
An executive order the governor signed Thursday will go into effect on May 22.
Under that order, beaches will be allowed to operate under a limited capacity, though local governments will control those levers.
While families will be allowed to cluster together, separate groups of people will need to maintain 6 ft. of space with others, though beachgoers will not be required to wear face coverings.
Organized activities and sports are still banned, though Murphy said restrooms at beaches — as well as those at state and county parks — will be allowed to open.
Murphy has faced mounting political pressure to lift restrictions on the Jersey Shore as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state continues to drop and the region’s peak season approaches.
The governor and state health officials have eyed the reopenings cautiously.
Over the past two months, they’ve repeatedly raised concerns about overwhelming health care systems in the region. Unlike portions of the state where most residents live year round, the shore lacks the infrastructure to withstand a virus surge, though those concerns may have been alleviated somewhat by statewide declines in hospitalizations.