'Dry run' at Jersey shore tests crowds ahead of Memorial Day weekend

VENTNOR, New Jersey (WPVI) -- As the Jersey shore gears up for the unofficial start to summer, some towns used this weekend as a "dry run" to test social distancing, while others chose to wait until next week.

Ventnor, New Jersey is one of those towns just not ready to open yet. The stretch of the city's boardwalk remains closed, and sunbathing is still prohibited on the beach until next weekend.

Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman said already her city of 10,000 has swelled to more than 20,000 due to second home owners seeking refuge from COVID-19.

"We wanted to space the opening of the beach, the full blown opening and the boardwalk," said Holtzman.

"There were some people on the boardwalk. I think it was maybe a misunderstanding. We needed to enforce the closing of the boardwalk," added Holtzman.

In Ocean City, the boardwalk was packed on Saturday, making it hard to social distance.

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Ocean City is asking beachgoers to avoid social gatherings and respect social distancing guidelines.



Michelle Davis of Medford brought a mask but did not wear it while walking on the boardwalk.

"We brought masks, so if we go up to the shop we put our masks on. We're not even going to come to the boardwalk next weekend, I think it's going to be busy," said Davis.

Restaurants operated takeout, some saw long lines at times, but Sunday at Manco & Manco operated like a well-oiled machine.

Governor Phil Murphy announced earlier this week beaches would be open by Memorial Day weekend. The reopenings will take effect on May 22.

The governor says that beaches and lakefronts can reopen but that gatherings such as concerts and fireworks will be prohibited.

He also said each town must establish its own capacity limitations and ways to enforce social distancing. Restaurants on boardwalks can remain open for takeout only, and amusement parks and playgrounds will remain closed.

He also urged people to wear a mask or face covering while in more crowded areas or while waiting for food on the boardwalks.

"I'm at the point, at this time I think people have to take responsibility for themselves , self govern themselves," said Holtzman.

The mayor says in addition to lifeguards on the beaches, they will have EMTs who are specifically there to respond in COVID-19 protective gear for any medical needs people have on the beach.

On Sunday, Murphy said an additional 1,272 New Jersey residents tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 146,334.

An additional 107 people died in New Jersey from coronavirus-related complications. The statewide death toll is 10,356.

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