We rounded a pretty significant bend in the road last month when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the easing of more COVID-19 restrictions, including removal of all percentage capacity limits for indoor and outdoor businesses, a lifting of the prohibition on indoor bar seating, and an end to the outdoor gathering limit.
“With our COVID-19 numbers, particularly hospitalizations, trending decisively in the right direction and our vaccination goals within reach, now is the time to take major steps to reopen our economy and loosen both indoor and outdoor gathering and capacity restrictions,” Gov. Murphy said on May 3 after signing his latest pandemic-related executive order
Barring an unexpected uptick in COVID-19 numbers, as of May 19 the governor has lifted the outdoor gathering limit, though attendees are still required to keep 6 feet apart from other groups. As for general social gatherings like birthday parties and events in people’s homes, the limit was raised from 25 to 50 people.
Commercial gatherings and events organized and operated by an “overseeing entity” (conferences, expos, meetings of fraternal organizations, etc.) will be subject to the 250-person indoor gathering limit that applies to indoor catered events, as long as all attendees can remain 6 feet apart.
Also taking effect on May 19 was the complete removal of all percentage capacity limits for indoor and outdoor businesses and houses of worship. Any business, whether indoors or out, that is subject to a percentage capacity limitation will instead be guided by the rule regarding 6 feet of distance between persons or groups of persons. This would include indoor dining, gyms, personal care services, pools, indoor catered events like funerals, memorial services, performances, or political activities, as well as indoor and outdoor amusement and recreation businesses.
Hopefully these orders mark a bit of a return to summer normalcy. It’s a far cry from March 12, 2020, the first in a regular series of pandemic related video forecasts I was posting on The Fisherman’s YouTube account. That particular week was when we learned of the cancellation of the Saltwater Fishing Expo; a week later, it was curfews, closures and quarantines leading to a long, strange trip indeed!
And except for the month of April and into the middle of May of 2020, the for-hire boats at the Jersey Shore continued sailing for fluke, sea bass, stripers and the likes. Rails were taped, masks worn and onboard capacity seriously strained, but for the most part the fishing community persevered. As we kick off the summer of 2021, I like to think that early sacrifice has paid dividends to where we are today in terms of moving forward again with life at the rail.
Look, I’m not saying everything was hunky-dory, or that I agreed or even disagreed with the policies and procedures put in place during the pandemic. I guess my own silver lining to the whole crisis is that I had my two kids, Alex (25) and Samantha (21) at home with my wife and me during the entire lockdown. Heck, we actually enjoyed a little fishing time together, something that doesn’t often happen given their social calendars as young upwardly urban professionals.
So we take the good with the bad, learn to make do, turn lemons into lemonade. At the end of it all – outside of the horrific personal losses – I like to think it’s brought a lot of people closer together, and provided a strong reminder of what’s really important in life. With schools (virtual or in-person) now coming to summer break, it’s a nice time to pause and think back to the quality time with family during an especially trying 2020, making sure we don’t lose sight of what got us through the darker days.
Fishing with friends and family, in good times and bad, is something I don’t plan to take for granted ever again.