NEW JERSEY — New Jersey will reopen state parks and allow golf courses and county parks to reopen, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
Murphy said he will sign the executive order, which will take effect at sunrise on May 2.
"This will bring us in line, broadly speaking, with our neighboring states," he said.
County governments will regain the authority to decide whether county parks will remain closed or reopen, Murphy added.
Parking at all parks will be capped at 50% capacity. Golf courses will also be capped at 50% capacity.
Residents have also been advised to stay close to home and go to a park close by.
Playgrounds, pavilions, visitor centers and restrooms will remain closed and picnics, organized activities and team sports remain prohibited.
Social distancing rules will continue to be mandated, and Murphy advises everyone to wear face coverings, particularly when social distancing is difficult.
Murphy said he reserves the right to reverse the order if social distancing rules are not followed. "We’re going to be looking very closely up and down the state this weekend.”
"I’m not trying to be a jerk about this," said Murphy, "but if we see congregation of people and they’re not wearing face masks then we will reconsider," he said.
New Jersey reported Wednesday the state's death toll has reached 6,770 and number of confirmed cases in state surpassed 116,000.
The decision to reopen parks comes amid pressure from protesters and lawmakers within the governor's own party.
State police charged the organizer of a protest in Trenton Tuesday, where activists rallied for the state to reopen.
Murphy said Wednesday that their voices had no impact on his decision to reopen parks.
"With all due respect to all the pressure out there, we couldn’t frankly care," the governor said. "We make these calls based on data, science, facts.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and a bipartisan group of legislators are also calling on the governor to safely reopen the state.
"My concern is government is going to putting people out of business," said Sweeney, who noted that the governor and his administration have done a great job controlling the virus, but adding businesses are dying.
"What we’re saying is give businesses guidance on how to open," said Sweeney. "And then let the business decide if they can live within the rules of opening their business back."
Murphy announced on Monday that to reopen the rest of the state, New Jersey needs: to double the state’s testing capacity; a steady decline of new COVID-19 cases; robust contact tracing; and more places for the exposed to isolate.
All people should wear a face mask.
Mayors of six Hudson County towns say they will announce the reopening of some municipal parks as early as next week, including in West New York, North Bergen, Guttenberg, Weehawken, Union City and Hoboken.
Hoboken has announced testing at their uptown Riverside Medical testing facility on 14th Street is now open by appointment only to all residents — with or without symptoms — making it one of the first testing sites in the state to offer more widespread testing.