As Wildwoods prepare to open boardwalks, officials press Murphy to green-light businesses

UPDATED: 1:20 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The boardwalk and beaches are reopening in the Wildwoods later this week. In the meantime, Cape May County officials have sent New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy a plan to slowly open up shops and restaurants.

North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello says he wants residents and Shore home owners to have some kind of normalcy. So, North Wildwood and Wildwood are reopening the boardwalk, beaches, parks and playgrounds to walkers, runners and bicyclists on Friday.

And he's making changes at the beach, too.

“We had originally restricted people so you couldn’t sit on a chair on a beach, you couldn’t sunbathe. We are lifting those restrictions from the beach from the local level," Rosenello said.

Each shore town is handling beach restrictions differently. Some aren’t allowing sunbathing, but Rosenello says starting Friday visitors can sit on the beach in Wildwood and North Wildwood -- as long as then state’s social distancing guidelines are followed: Stay six feet apart, and wear a mask if near other people. 

But many doors will remain closed for the time being.

They say if grocery stores and other essential businesses can be open safely, then places like bars, restaurants and movie theaters can too, adding that testing, disinfecting and limiting capacity are all key elements to the plan.

County freeholder and Sea Isle Mayor Len Desederio says talks with the governor’s office have been good. The county’s proposal is all about getting some restaurants and other businesses back, while staying safe.

“We realize this is gonna be a summer like we’ve never had before," Desederio  said.

Short-term rentals will not be allowed until after Memorial Day, so there’s no big rush of people just yet.

“We’re going cautious but moving forward.”

Murphy has said: "data determines dates" -- meaning, until the state sees a steep and sustained decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, reopening will stay on hold.

He did say on MSNBC that outdoor locations, such as beaches, can be handled differently.

"Outside, I think you've got more degrees of freedom. We've seen it in parks. I think you can hopefully see a similar reality on beaches," Murphy said.

Officials say Cape May County has a very small percentage of the state’s coronavirus cases. Rosenello says they need to get small businesses open, safely, because the summer months are all they have to stay afloat.

“If you miss any significant amount of those 90 days, you’re most likely looking at catastrophic economic losses at the Jersey Shore.”