One year later. It was last year at this time when lockdowns, masks, and social distancing were introduced to the world and to New Jersey.
While the coronavirus started making headlines in late January, the effects in the United States were largely unknown until late February. Schools and businesses remained open. People went out to dinner, saw movies, and didn't worry about being six feet apart. The coronavirus quickly put an end to that.
New Jersey was one of the first states to receive social restrictions. Schools closed one after another. Virtual learning commenced. Restaurants and stores closed. Businesses sent employees home. People left their windowed offices and cubicles and the world waited with bated breath. What would happen next?
By April 5, 2020, the Garden State had over 37,000 positive cases; by the end of the month, there were over 7,000 deaths. Those numbers quickly escalated, although many hoped for a return for normalcy.
The spring and summer brought more uncertainty. Proms and graduations were postponed indefinitely. Summer camps were canceled. Concerts at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel were canceled. Beach clubs and town municipalities tried to figure out if there was any way to stay socially distant and open for the summer.
What will the summer of 2021 bring?
Over the past 12 months, the world has become a different place. Masks are expected, everyone knows at least one person who has had COVID, and vaccinations are widely available. Will New Jerseyians have a sense of normal this summer?
PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel announced its summer lineup, with shows scheduled by Halsey, Earth, Wind and Fire, Steeley Dan, just to name a few. PNC is an open amphitheater that features stadium and lawn seating. Its a great place to relax and see a show.
Great Adventure was open in 2020 and has plans to reopen again for the 2021 season on Saturday, March 27. The park will be celebrating its 60th anniversary and plans to be in full adherence to Centers for Disease Controls guidelines, including temperature checks and mandated masks. Great Adventure will be debuting a new rollercoaster this year which will shatter three world records — the tallest, fastest, and longest single-rail coaster, the Jersey Devil Coaster. Wild Safari will open on Saturday, March 20, and Hurricane Harbor on Saturday, May 15.
Beaches were open in 2020 and will be open as well this summer. Each municipality has its own rules, so it is important to check with your town when badges and passes will be sold. For county, state, and federal beaches, check their websites or social media pages to see their specific requirements.
How about summer camps? Many camps have made plans to open for the summer, with registrations already open. Parents and kids alike were disappointed when summer camps were canceled last year. Monmouth County Parks opened registration for many of their in person camps earlier in March, and with limited spots, several filled up within minutes.
There's no better time to eat outside than during the warm days of summer. While some restaurants were open last year, many more will have outdoor dining for the season. Just in time to plan for the season, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced an easing of restrictions on March 11. Restaurants and indoor businesses are allowed to return to 50 percent capacity, while bars, casinos, gyms, and amusement parks can return to 50 percent capacity on March 19.
You can increase the size of your outdoor barbeques as well, as the number of people allowed at private gatherings has been raised to 50 from 25.
Here's to a great summer in New Jersey!