Coronavirus News: New Jersey gets outside and stays socially distant

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- Saturday in New Jersey parks looked almost like a pre-COVID world. People were out running biking fishing and enjoying the spring weather but not without some caution.

"I do have masks if you need them they're there but at the same time try to isolate ourselves from everybody," Elrice Broadnax said.

Broadnax and his son, Nicholas, came to Liberty Park in Jersey City to throw the ball around.

"It's nice to get fresh air and enjoy the day with my dad," Nicolas said.

While Danielle Cappola brought her kids in a ride to get out of the neighborhood.

"It's nice to come somewhere where we are. It confined the neighborhood anymore. I'm cautious I'm not nervous," Cappola said.

Parks are open for the first time since April 7th but with limited capacity and no playgrounds or restroom.

Golf courses were also open with limited tee times and only 2 to a round, but the Essex County executive says it's a start and a welcome one, provided people keep social distancing.

"If we are going to continue to open New Jersey everybody has to follow the requirements ... more and more things will open," Joseph N. DiVincenzo said.

WATCH: NewsCopter 7 flies over Liberty State Park, other NJ parks Saturday

Island Beach State Park in Ocean County was among the parks to reopen, drawing several hundred people to a beach that routinely handles thousands during the summer. In the four hours that an Associated Press reporter watched the crowd, almost all of them complied with a requirement that they stay at least six feet apart to prevent the spread of the virus.

That's not to say everyone did, though: a small group of people wearing Rutgers T-shirts over their swimsuits reclined on towels six inches apart instead of six feet. And a few people saw friends on the beach, went up to them and hugged.

But for the most part, the beachgoers did exactly as they were urged to do by state officials, keeping their distance while having fun in the sun. More than half wore masks, even as strong sunshine bore down on a 70-degree day.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he was pleased with initial reports not only from the beachfront park, but from other state parks and some golf courses that also reopened on Saturday.

"So far, go good," he said during his daily briefing Saturday afternoon.

The Democratic governor said evaluations of how well beach crowds complied with social distancing rules would go a long way toward deciding when and how the Jersey Shore's famous beaches will reopen.

"I really missed this," said David Roebuck of Berkeley Township, who was among the first on the sand with his wife, Margie.

"Forty-six days in the house was enough," she said. Christina and Theresa Erb of Toms River brought the kids to the beach, giving them a welcome opportunity to run around and burn off energy.

"The kids were going crazy," Christina Erb said. "They asked, 'Why did they close nature?'"

"This feels wonderful," Theresa Erb added. "It feels like a little bit of normality is coming back."

By late afternoon, several state parks had reached half their capacity and were closed to additional arrivals.


COVID-19 Help, Information and Resources

Grieving the lost: Tri-State residents who have died

New York state
New York City
Long Island

Share your coronavirus story with Eyewitness News
Stimulus check scams and other coronavirus hoaxes
Coronavirus prevention: how clean are your hands?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus
Coronavirus cases by NJ county
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.