Eager to get outside and reclaim a warm-weather tradition, hundreds of people headed down the Shore Saturday to New Jersey’s newly reopened beaches — many without a face mask.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s order Thursday reopening some beaches “recommends, but does not order” that people wear masks at the beach and boardwalk when maintaining a minimum distance of 6 feet from others would be difficult. But on a sunny, summer-like Saturday afternoon, Murphy urged people to wear a face covering while out and about.
“Please, if you’re going out to our parks or elsewhere, please practice social distancing. Please wear something covering your face,” Murphy said during a news conference. “Folks, let’s please keep with this together because it’s the only way we’re going to see this through for the long term.”
“The risk is lower outdoors, but it’s not zero,” Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, told the New York Times. “And I think the risk is higher if you have two people who are stationary next to each other for a long time, like on a beach blanket, rather than people who are walking and passing each other.”
New Jersey established some guidelines to limit crowding at beaches and lakefronts, such as removing or blocking off benches and tables, banning people from tying together boats, and limiting the number of people allowed in public restrooms at once. Special events, like festivals and concerts, and sports activities are prohibited.
On the boardwalk, restaurants and bars are still limited to takeout and delivery services. Outdoor seating areas must be removed or blocked.
While New Jersey has not mandated masks at the beach or on the boardwalk, it may not be a bad idea. The CDC recommends people wear a mask in public settings where it’s difficult to maintain appropriate social distancing. The rule certainly applies in grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals, but you may also want to wear a mask if you’re in a crowded outdoor area.
“If you’re in an area where you know you’re going to be crossing paths with a lot of other people, you 100% should be wearing a mask, but in general, try to avoid those situations,” Patrick Davitt, the director of the University of Sciences’ Health Science Program, told The Inquirer in April.
As for splashing around in the waves, there’s no evidence that the virus can spread through the ocean or pools, but the CDC urges people to “play it safe” and maintain distance between yourself and others.