There have always been Jersey Shore beach tag checkers, and police officers walking boardwalks and patrolling beaches in ATVs.
But during this still-uncertain coronavirus spring and summer, Cape May County is adding a new minder: the Social Distance Ambassador.
Visitors to Cape May County Shore towns, who have already been crowding newly reopened boardwalks, will be asked to pay attention to social distancing by a corps of ambassadors volunteering with the county Health Department.
The vest-wearing (and presumably mask-wearing) ambassadors will begin shifts Friday in “high volume” areas, said Denis Brown, administrative aide to the county freeholders.
They will also have free disposable masks to give out, said Kevin Thomas, Cape May County’s top health official.
The ambassadors are part of a “Six Feet Saves” campaign in high volume areas “to remind individuals to keep their distance to help slow the spread of COVID-10,” according to a release from the county.
Brown said 16 volunteers had already gone through training and “dozens more” had signed up through the county Health Department portal. They will be handing out literature, though it was not clear how they would be doing that from six feet away.
“Social Distancing Ambassadors will be wearing vests with the county seal on them so they can be easily identified,” the county said. They will be volunteers through the Medical Reserve Corps and Health Department staff.
The Health Department initiative comes as county officials and tourism proponents are advocating a reopening plan that would see most Shore businesses, including hotels and motels, fully operational by June 22.
Gov. Phil Murphy has been promising to issue “guidance” on any reopening of beach towns for the summer. Individual towns have mostly reopened beaches, with some restrictions, and boardwalks.
Boardwalks in Ocean City and Wildwood, newly reopened during a chilly Mother’s Day weekend, still saw crowds and lines at food places.
Brown said the ambassadors were not there to report on violators or be community snitches. “They’re there to hand out information to whoever wants it. We’re not going to push it on people who are not interested. With the new normal, it’s a proactive way of communication.”
Thomas, the county health official, said the ambassadors would be mostly retired people who may have been doctors or other medical workers.