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Jersey Shore Reopening In Time For Memorial Day Weekend With Social Distancing Guidelines In Place, Gov. Murphy Says

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state's public and private beaches will reopen for the summer beginning Memorial Day weekend. The executive order for reopening the beaches goes into effect Friday, May 22.

"Today, I am proud to announce that yes, our shore and our lakeshores will be open," Murphy said.

Putting to rest a concern that's hung over the Jersey Shore all spring, Murphy announced that beaches and boardwalks have his blessing to open for Memorial Day weekend.

"After months at home, I know many families, probably measured in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, cannot wait for a day down the shore or alongside one of our lakes. And I am proud now to be able give them that day, a day they have worked so hard to make possible," Murphy said.

To keep COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on their current downward trend, the state issued a series of beach and lakeshore social distancing guidelines.

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They include requiring towns to set capacity limits on beaches but letting them have local discretion; limit family groups of visitors to 10 people or less; and requiring each group to sit at least six feet apart.

"The governor has given us the ability now to say, 'Bring your beach chair and your towel and you can lay out on the beach.' My sense is most communities will follow that now," Cape May Country Freeholder Will Morey said.

While face masks are not required, they will be encouraged.

However, there will still be restrictions, including no organized sports, no concerts or other events, no amusement rides or arcades and no fireworks.

"I think Memorial Day is going to look different than it typically has, but I think we all expected that," Morey said.

Boardwalk vendors can open for takeout but nonessential shops must obey curbside pickup rules.

"It is fabulous news about the beaches," Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio said.

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Desiderio, as well as leaders from about two dozen other shore towns, spoke with the governor earlier this week to discuss parameters for opening by Memorial Day Weekend.

"This is something we've never had to do before. Our job has always been to bring as many people as we can to the beach, as many people as we can to our communities. Now, we are practicing capacity management," Desiderio said.

Sea Isle City, along with Ocean City and Strathmere, are opening beaches this weekend with the new rules.

"I think holding people back from allowing them to be on their beaches, I mean, this is a pristine part of the world, the country, and to not be allowed access to an open ocean and acres of sand is to me, it's a little bit baffling," Ocean City resident Sue Flynn said.

The new beach rules will go into effect on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, residents are hoping people will continue to respect social distancing.

"I'm OK with the implementing of opening beaches, I just want it done in a safe manner that is in a controlled environment," Atlantic City resident Keith Garland said.

Murphy says, in the coming weeks, he may ease more restrictions for businesses and recreation at the shore.

CBS3's Cleve Bryan and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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