Beaches should not reopen amidst COVID-19

by Yethmie Goonatilleke, Staff Writer

Amidst the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, many crucial decisions are being made determining what will open within the next few weeks, or what will remain closed. Many businesses have either closed or have taken precautionary measures, such as schools in New Jersey deciding to remain closed for the school year, beaches, recreational businesses, and entertainment businesses. 

Across the country, state stay-at-home orders are now expiring and public places are opening again. Though New Jersey’s stay-at-home order has been in effect since March 21 and is projected to end in June, starting on May 8, several beaches in New Jersey reopened, such as Wildwood and North Wildwood. 

Everyone, including me, wants to return to the normal routine and have places reopen. However, I believe opening several beaches in New Jersey this early is an irresponsible decision. 

New Jersey has been one of the most affected states in the United States, only trailing behind New York. As of Jun. 17, there are 167,426 cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey. Even in Glen Rock, there have been 118 reported cases and 8 deaths. Though cases in New Jersey are decreasing, there is still an overwhelming amount of cases. When looking at cases across the entire country, the curve is flattening, but plateauing rather than a sharp decrease. 

Though tourism plays an important role in New Jersey’s economy, especially along the Jersey Shore, beaches should not reopen. This entire situation of COVID-19 is unprecedented, and I believe that the main priority in the United States should be to slow the infection and deaths. The main priority should not be to reopen public places like the beach just yet. 

In comparison to the United States, other countries like New Zealand have been praised for keeping the virus contained within their country and limiting deaths. New Zealand is much smaller than the United States, but with strict rules, New Zealand was able to limit the deaths to only 17 people in a country with a population of about five million (as of April 24.) In addition to this, less than 1,500 people have been affected. 

New Zealand achieved this with strict stay-at-home orders. Citizens had to stay at home and almost all businesses were shut down, with the exception of necessary businesses such as grocery stores. New Zealand had also administered more than 100,000 tests. Their borders were also shut quickly, and travelers were forced to self-isolate. Jacinda Arden, the prime minister of New Zealand, hopes to completely eliminate the virus in New Zealand. In March, Arden stated “We must go hard, and we must go early.”

New Zealand is geographically lucky – it is an isolated island and has a smaller population than the state of New Jersey. It’s difficult to stop the spread in states like New York and New Jersey where the population is so dense compared to New Zealand, but by staying home, it will help slow the spread. If beaches are to open, it would lead to large groups of people close to each other which is the exact opposite of what should happen. 

In April, several beaches in California opened again, such as Huntington Beach. This led to many people flocking to beaches, despite their stay-at-home in order that has been in effect since March 19.  Evident from pictures, many people who go to the beach don’t seem to be practicing social distancing well. California is one of the most affected states in the United States, so it truly doesn’t make sense why they would open beaches again when there is still not a vaccine. 

With a pandemic this widespread, it’s foolish to think that the state will return to normal soon. The top priority should be slowing the spread and limiting deaths, not opening  beaches again.