CAPE MAY, N.J. (CBS) — There are concerns that people flocking down the shore this July 4th weekend could increase the spread of COVID-19. Officials in Cape May County are urging people to wear masks even outside and maintain social distancing.
Masks do not have to be worn on the beach, but people were mostly keeping six feet apart Friday.
Despite health concerns, many families are making and carrying on traditions of heading to the beach this holiday weekend.
It was bumper to bumper Friday on Route 42 as droves of people made their way down the shore.
“Beautiful weather, beautiful people, beautiful shops,” Cape May visitor Yair Dishon said.
At the Washington Street Mall in the heart of Cape May, most families are making the effort to stay six feet apart from each other. Many are also wearing masks.
“As long as we’re keeping our distance and I’m keeping my mask on, I’m good,” Wallingford, Pennsylvania resident Joan Batista said.
There are other changes this summer. Cape May officials closed part of some streets so restaurants can have more outside seating. People can drink adult beverages outside during evening hours.
But shops are still only seeing a fraction of customers.
“It’s steady and it’s picking up, but it’s not going to be what it was last year,” said Aaron Menkins, with Just For Laughs.
Over by the beach, boats whizzed by in the water while many people laid out. But masks are not required here.
“I think it’s really hot so it’s hard to wear a mask on the beach all day,” Northeast Philadelphia resident Ryan Sees said.
Still, Cape May officials urge people to be cautious this holiday weekend.
“Be safe and of course, get the mask on, it’s not hard,” Cape May Mayor Clarence Lear said.
On the boardwalk in Ocean City, there were only hints that something is different this year.
“There was no traffic. We got here easily, one straight run. We didn’t even stop,” Philadelphia resident Nikia Voss said. “We were hesitant but we just said you know, let’s just say a prayer, come on down and enjoy ourselves. But it’s not as crowded as I thought it was going to be.”
Still, the beach was packed as scorching temperatures drove families close to the water. Amusements down the shore were given the green light this week, so at reduced capacity and with extra cleaning and game barriers, rides churned to life once again.
Manco and Manco’s embraced curbside pickup for the first time. Eateries overall adapted as they are still only able to operate as takeout or outdoor dining.
“It’s definitely busier than the past couple weekends,” said Pat Fish, with Shivers Gelato.
Like Shivers Gelato, businesses enforced a strict mask policy for entry, and while mask wearing has been strongly encouraged in public places down the shore…
“Yeah, definitely not more than 50% of people are wearing masks,” Fish said.
A holiday weekend in the COVID era is not ideal but according to 10-year-old Domenic, it’s all about perspective.
“It kinda ruins the vibe but you gotta keep a good vibe check, you have to keep the positive vibes,” he said.
In Ocean City, officials will be strolling the boardwalk Saturday evening and awarding prizes to people wearing face masks.
Fireworks will not happen in Cape May this year.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Alexandria Hoff contributed to this report.