PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Jersey Shore and Delaware beaches might be open for Memorial Day weekend amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but Philadelphia officials are warning residents not to go to the beach. During Monday’s briefing, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says it would be risky being in large crowds.
“Don’t go to the beach. We’re not recommending people go to the beach this weekend,” Farley said. “It is true that being outdoors is probably less risk than being close to people indoors, but if you go into crowds anywhere, there’s risks.”
“I am not sure why the governors of Maryland and New Jersey have opened their beaches, but they have,” Gov. Tom Wolf said.
They did so with Memorial Day weekend on the horizon — a time-honored tradition which, this year, comes with respecting social distancing, mask-wearing and historic advice from some Pennsylvania leaders.
“I wouldn’t go to the beach,” Wolf said.
Farley says it would be safer to go to the beach when the number of cases are lower.
“We understand the draw, it’s very tempting. You may have gone to the beach every Memorial Day weekend for years, but this is not the time to do that. Let’s wait until the case counts are lower for it to be safer,” the health commissioner said.
Mayor Jim Kenney is concerned that residents who do go to the Jersey Shore this weekend could bring the virus back.
“South Jersey does what South Jersey does. It’s going to affect us because people are going to go to the beach this weekend, they’re going to congregate with people in too close proximity, then they’re going to drive back home to Philadelphia and perhaps give the virus to somebody in their family,” Kenney said.
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron said he’s not actively encouraging out-of-staters to come down the shore this weekend but understands many plan to.
“The forecast isn’t so great and frankly, even if it was, there isn’t as many activities for the people to take advantage of as a typical Memorial Day weekend,” Byron said. “Really, if you are going to come to the shore this weekend, you’ve got the beach if the weather is nice and the boardwalk is nothing more than a place to walk or grab a slice of pizza.”
CBS3 reached out to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s office and was told that there are no restrictions for out-of-state visitors at the state’s beaches, boardwalks or lakes.
Back in Philly, Kenney also said he’s waiting for more health information before reopening the city.
“I think we’re being responsible, we see our case counts going down, we see our deaths going down, and we’re going in the right direction. Why would we screw that up?” Kenney said.
The warning comes as the city reported 347 new COVID-19 cases from two days’ worth of data, bringing the citywide total to 19,953. Nine more people also died from the virus, raising the city’s death toll to 1,040.
As city officials double down on warnings to stay close to home, industries in the city are seeing the brunt of drastic budget cuts, which are another ripple effect of the COVID-19 crisis.
Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, says her office will take a hit with the new proposed budget cuts.
“On an average day for any given major production, like a feature film or a television series, there’s going to be 250 people a day, so we’re talking about 1,000 people a day and that’s just for the big shows,” Pinkenson said.
“This is a $650 million problem. Back in 2008 and 2009, it was an $108 million problem. It’s a $650 million problem and everyone is going to have to pull together to get us out of this,” Kenney said. “I understand why each individual sector or segment of the economy or the city has their own interest in mind and their own special interests. I appreciate that and I sympathize with that.”
City Council is currently holding virtual budget hearings. The film industry is touting its continued economic boost to the city in hopes of staying viable.
“We’re not a part of the problem, we’re the ones that really create jobs. All of those jobs create revenue for the city,” Pinkenson said. “We’re hopeful that it was just an oversight. We’re hoping City Council will help us.”
CBS3’s Natasha Brown and Alexandria Hoff contributed to this report.