On a typical Memorial Day weekend, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, might see 60,000 beachgoers. The total represents roughly a 12-fold increase from the town’s year-round population.
But this year, Mayor Paul Kanitra says the holiday number should be much smaller.
As the state of New Jersey reopens beaches for the holiday weekend, which in the United States signals the beginning of summer, state Governor Phil Murphy has mandated capacity limits and social distancing in the sand and surf to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Kanitra has further limited the number of beach passes the town is selling and slashed available parking spaces for the beach by 50%.
The town’s police force – which normally swells during the summer months with temporary officers hired on to patrol crowds – is at 1/3 strength as it has had to postpone mandatory training because of coronavirus.
He expects towns like his to continue for some time operating with such reductions.
“It showcases just what a ‘new normal’ is,” he told Reuters.
If all goes well this holiday weekend, Kanitra said he hopes to slowly build beach access and be ready for crowds by July 4th.
“The most important months for this town, for our businesses, for the municipality are the months of July and August,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important that we get this right the first time. You know, for us, we need to make sure that people that come to Point Pleasant Beach feel safe when they’re here.”
(Production by: Hussein al Waaile, Catherine Koppel and Dan Fastenberg)