Battleship New Jersey closing down due to coronavirus: 'We never saw this happening'

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- It's the most decorated Navy battleship still afloat, but after serving four wars, the USS New Jersey has found itself in a different battle, against an enemy it never intended to fight: COVID-19.

"Guests were a little apprehensive about going onboard a steel museum ship and rightfully so," said Jack Willard, who's the marketing director for the ship.

After the initial pandemic shutdown, the ship reopened in June with new CDC safety measures in place, like social distancing guidelines and a health screening.

Still, they could only accommodate walk-up tours with 25% capacity, meaning its popular programs like group tours, overnight stays, and special events, all had to be canceled.

"In our wildest dreams, we never saw this happening," said Willard.

The ship is closing for the rest of the year and about 80 people on staff are being furloughed. Officials hope to reopen in April 2021 and it would like to fundraise at least half a million dollars to make up for lost revenue.

"We're going to continue to raise money and our hope is that in the spring, we'll come back stronger than ever," said Willard.

"Absolutely, it needs to be here," said Chris Marx, of Warminster who visited the ship with his son, Colin. The young boy got to be one of the final people to set off one of the ship's cannons.

"It sounded like a big boom like a bomb exploding," he said.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.