Atlantic City Casino

People walk along the Atlantic City Boardwalk past Tropicana Atlantic City on a quieter-than-normal St. Patrick’s Day.

Lawmakers on Thursday continued to tell people from outside the area to avoid visiting the Jersey Shore until the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton was the first early this week to publicly ask out-of-towners to stay home. Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica and state Sen. Michael J. Testa Jr. joined him Thursday, while Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian warned that visitors must not be demonized.

“This is one time when we want to see the beaches and the boardwalks empty,” Testa said Thursday. “Now is not the time to be traveling to tourism areas.”

On Wednesday, public health authorities announced Cape May County’s first case of COVID-19, in a 30-year-old man visiting from New York City, and Atlantic County’s first three cases, at least one of which had close ties to the Big Apple. A second Cape May County case was announced Thursday, a 32-year-old man from the county who is at home and recovering.

Gillian cautioned residents that everyone has to follow the rules — not just those from out of town.

“I am asking that everybody please stay at home, limit travel only to essential destinations, and practice social distancing if you have to go out,” Gillian said in a statement on the city website. “In order for this request to have any meaningful effect, it must apply to all unnecessary travel — not just to out-of-state visitors. It saddens me to see the divisiveness spawned by recent statements irresponsibly singling out this population.”

Formica said it’s a matter of people staying where the resources are for their population base.

“Federal aid is based on the Census,” Formica said. “These people from Cherry Hill, or the Main Line (outside of Philadelphia) or wherever the supermarkets are allotting food based on our population. If we are inundated with twice as many residents — their allocation stays in the Main Line, stays in Cherry Hill. You can’t get that back.”

“I’m not saying, ‘Don’t come to the house we love you to pay taxes on,’” Formica said. “We’re saying, ‘Don’t deplete the resources because they are destination specific.’”

They called on residents and those from out of state to remain self-quarantined and follow precautions to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

“Tourism is the life-blood of the economy in our shore towns, but right now, it is important to make public health and safety the priorities,” Testa said. “We will restore our economy when this life-threatening crisis has passed, but we cannot restore the lives that are lost.”

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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