Cape May County submits detailed reopening plan for state consideration

Cape May County has submitted what officials say is a "safe, thoughtful and progressive" reopening plan to Gov. Phil Murphy. 

Victorian houses along the beach in Cape May.

Victorian houses along the beach in Cape May. (Public Domain)

Cape May County has submitted what officials say is a “safe, thoughtful and progressive” reopening plan to Gov. Phil Murphy.

The plan, a product of the Cape May County-Wide Recovery Initiative — a coalition of business owners, elected officials and county employees — seeks to “optimize and support economic recovery” during the upcoming summer season. It cites the county’s generation of more than $6 million in direct tourism revenue annually.

“Safety protocols and certainty about when rentals can begin are key components of any recovery effort for Cape May County,” Freeholder Vice-Director Len Desiderio said in a news release. “We will proceed in a thoughtful and safe fashion. I believe we can rely on the people of Cape May County to become educated about safety protocols and to follow them.”

The plan notes that the county “suffered a mild outbreak and a downward trend appears to be underway,” adding that “the potential dire consequence for the small businesses and working families of Cape May County cannot be overstated.”

Highlights of the plan include:

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Rentals, hotels and motels

  • Seasonal rentals to commence on May 11, 2020, with shorter-term rentals allowed to begin no earlier than June 1, 2020.
  • Hotels and motels may operate at a capacity of 60% of their full capacity effective Monday, June 1, 2020, and hotels and motels may operate at full capacity effective Monday, June 22, 2020.


  • Recommends that on June 1, 2020, all beaches be fully open for active and passive recreation subject to state directives and local discretion. All activities would remain subject to social distancing and groups would be limited to no more than 10 people in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • When beaches fully open, oceanfront communities that have the ability to do so will offer additional beach patrol locations in order to open waters as much as possible. In this manner, the “clumping” of beachgoers in the areas of lifeguard stands can be minimized and beachgoers will naturally spread out over a larger area.


  • The proposal of the recovery initiative is that all boardwalks be opened for the purpose of accessing essential businesses. Active recreation would then be allowed starting May 11, 2020. Again, social distancing would be required, with gathering and idling prohibited.
  • On June 1, 2020, all boardwalks and related businesses and facilities would open for full use. All public and business facilities related to boardwalk opening would be subject to industry protocols and best practices for social distancing, personal protective equipment, sanitation, disinfection and employee monitoring.


  • In businesses, persons who are not part of an existing, non-infected pod of individuals, such as families or other discreet small groups, will be required to remain at least 6 feet away from each other.
  • All persons will be required to utilize an effective covering of the nose and mouth designed to maximize the prevention of distribution or inhalation of vapor droplets from the respiratory system. Employees will be instructed on the proper use of gloves or other barriers to transmission by touch and will be required to utilize the same at all times.
  • All employers, public and private, will engage in strict sanitation protocols. All refuse will be handled by employees in personal protective equipment that includes, at a minimum, face-coverings and gloves.

Restaurants, bars, and other similar businesses 

  • Recommends that communities provide for the temporary relaxation of zoning and Alcoholic Beverage Control requirements in order to allow restaurants and bars to utilize surrounding outdoor spaces, such as sidewalks and parking lots, in an effort to maximize social distancing and minimize the potential for spread.
  • Restaurants, similar to bars, would open for outdoor dining on May 26, 2020. Maximum capacity would be 75% of fire code limitations or a capacity reached by placement of customer seating areas at least 6 feet apart from one another, whichever allows for greater social distancing.
  • On June 1, 2020, restaurants would open for indoor dining. Maximum capacity would be 65% of fire code limitations or a capacity reached by placement of customer seating areas at least 6 feet apart from one another, whichever allows for greater social distancing.


  • On May 11, 2020, all retail establishments would be permitted to sell items for pick-up. Utilization of masks and other essential personal protective equipment will be paramount for retail operations.
  • On June 1, 2020, indoor retail shopping would commence. As has been the practice with essential retail over the past several weeks, the retail establishment must ensure social distancing and control the number of patrons inside at any given time in order to provide the ability for patrons to stay at least 6 feet apart.
  • Retail operators are also responsible for making certain that all employees and customers are wearing masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • As with restaurants, municipalities may also be able to allow for the outdoor placement and sale of retail goods where the same can be accomplished without blocking rights-of-way or otherwise creating social distancing challenges.


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  • Campgrounds opened by state action for seasonal visitors on May 2, 2020. It is recommended that campgrounds open for shorter-term visitors on June 1, 2020.

The Murphy administration has repeatedly said that the state will offer guidelines to shore communities. Murphy’s chief of staff, George Helmy, tweeted last night that his team discussed the plan with county leaders.

It’s not yet known when the state will issue guidelines.

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