The pleasant weather on Saturday welcomed many to the shore town of Ocean City, New Jersey for Memorial Day Weekend. People were soaking up the sunshine on the beach, walking along the boardwalk, and enjoying their tasty treats trying to escape the harsh reality of COVID-19.
However, there were some atypical scenes at this shore town. Parking lots were empty and street parking, which is usually nearly impossible to find, was abundant. Hotels and motels remain vacant until they are able to welcome guests effective June 1, 2020. Even then, they can only operate at 60% capacity.
Jennifer Pfander, a local resident of Cape May County, was strolling past the famous Shriver’s Taffy confectionary. She was one of the few people on the boardwalk adhering to the CDC guidelines of wearing a face covering.
She said the small businesses are struggling because of the restrictions imposed by the state.
“I think things need to be reopened. The businesses down here need the tourists. I think people need to be responsible,” said Pfander.
Where the sand meets the boardwalk, there is hand sanitizer available for people to use along with a sign displaying more reminders for people to keep safe.
The clear majority of people were opting to go mask-free despite the audible reminders over the loudspeakers urging people to wear face-coverings and practice social distancing.
Michelle Kinsman was one of the people on the boardwalk going maskless.
“I think everyone has to do what they feel like they need to do to be comfortable. I personally choose not to live my life that way. I’m going mask free,” said Kinsman.
Kinsman went on to say that she does wear her mask when she enters the establishments on the boardwalk. However, she believes she is less likely to become sick outdoors.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said in an interview on ABC This Week that she is “very concerned” about people not wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines while outdoors.
“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” Birx said in an interview with Martha Raddatz.
It seems almost impossible to be socially distant on a crowded boardwalk, and Jennifer Pfander does not agree with people deciding to not wear any face-covering.
“I don’t agree with it but, you know, that’s their choice. You can’t force anyone to do anything like that,” she said.
Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy was one of the businesses being proactive about the lack of face coverings on the boardwalk and decided to hand out masks for customers entering their confectionary.
However, the non-essential businesses populating the boardwalk are only able to open for curb-side pick-ups.
The boutique, By the Sea, is among those businesses. Don Milora, the owner, and says he was forced to close for two months, which was a major impact on his business. Now, he expects Governor Murphy to allow in-person shopping.
“I expected it yesterday,” he said. Milora went on to say, “It’s something but it’s not nearly what it should be because customers are not allowed in the store so they can’t browse. They can’t shop. They can’t do anything they like to do.”
For now, his business is limited to tables set up outside of his store displaying only a fraction of his merchandise to customers.
It is unknown what the impact of Memorial Day Weekend at the Jersey Shore will have on the overall infection rate and the death toll of COVID-19.