WILDWOOD CREST, N.J. – In a normal spring, the mayors of North Wildwood, Wildwood, West Wildwood and Wildwood Crest would welcome out-of-town visitors with open arms.
In the spring of coronavirus? Not so much.
On Wednesday, the four mayors issued a rare joint statement asking non-year-round residents, visitors and tourists to stay away from the iconic “Five Mile Island” until further notice.
The Mayor of Wildwood Crest went the furthest in his own statement, proposing that the entire county be closed off.
“It is in the best interest of the Wildwoods, as well as the second homeowners of the Wildwoods and Cape May County, for everyone to stay home at their primary residences, rather than debilitating all supplies and infrastructure on our island during this state of emergency. This is simply a matter of human compassion. I prefer access to Cape May County and the Wildwoods’ bridges temporarily closed unless living here year-round, employed on the island or caring for a senior or person needing assistance,” said Borough of Wildwood Crest Mayor Don Cabrera.
While Cape May County is home to some of the country’s most popular beach resorts including Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor, Avalon, the Wildwoods, and its namesake of Cape May, its year-round population skews older and includes thousands of retirees; health officials and local authorities worry that this population is the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
Tourism is a major part of the Garden State’s economy. Visitors spent $43 billion here in 2017 alone.
The county had its first report of coronavirus on Wednesday; the patient is reportedly from New York.