Coronavirus Short Term Cape May Cautious Outlook

Coronavirus Short Term Cape May Outlook

The Freeholder said it. The mayor said it. The Governor of New Jersey said it. The mayors of Wildwood debated it. But the chorus sings in unison. Now is not the time to visit the Jersey shore. This is the coronavirus short term Cape May outlook.

On March 15th Congress Hall and the Mission Inn made the preemptive decision to shut down operations. Shortly after, the Cape May County Freeholders made the recommendation supporting that decision to other area non-essential businesses.  Consequently, soon after the New Jersey Governor made it nearly a requirement for all non-essential businesses to close down.

Virtually every open in business in Cape May has shut their doors or drastically reduced operations. A handful of restaurants continue to offer curbside delivery. A ratcheted down version of takeout.

Buffalo chicken cheesesteak from CView


Pleading to second homeowners, government officials stopped short of commanding they remain at their primary residences. Now was not the time to visit Cape May to weather the imminent health crisis. Interestingly, many have described the coronavirus as a pending blizzard or noreaster that would cripple the area.

We pay taxes too

Plumbers reported an early surge in the requests to turn-on water service in seasonal homes. One plumber made a social media post that they would only enter empty homes. Second homeowners protested the restriction in Facebook groups. We pay taxes too they complained. City officials explained the stay at primary residence request was to prevent the potential burden on essential services during an offseason population surge.

The little ACME here in town struggles to serve on a good day. The residents at Victorian Towers and the housing authority buildings depend on the local ACME for provisions in the off-season. The ACME in North Cape May and the Shoprite in the Rio Grande location are at off-season staffing levels and most likely inventory.

The iconic Lobster House closed down takeout and dining operations but continues to provide fresh seafood in the market area.

The last thing Cape May needs is a flood of out of town license plates coming over the bridge making a traditional stop at the fish market or grocery store.

Many of us in hospitality are evaluating on a daily basis when we might resume or return to normal operations. Fortunately, a lot of us are still closed for the season. Startup dates are tentative and fluid at this point in time.

For any small motel or bed and breakfast operation to remain open during this time feels irresponsible and incredibly risky. Local, county and state leaders are advising people to remain where they are. Lodging establishments should not be inviting people to Cape May by advertising they are open.

Salvaging the season

Many of you are making great sacrifices. Many of you are out of jobs. If you are in business you have a fraction of the income you had ten days ago. Watching events unfold to our north and heeding the social distancing policies issued by officials is the only way to stem the tide of this pandemic–particularly into the southern part of the state.

“For us shutting down and remaining closed seemed like the only socially responsible action to take,” Wendy Collins, co-owner of the Mission Inn told me.

Inviting others to Cape May at this time, whether they be second homeowners or guests of a motel or bed and breakfast puts the rest of our season in jeopardy.

I consider myself a most welcoming and inviting person. It is not easy for me to tell you to stay home. It’s for your good. It’s for the good of our unopened businesses, and it is necessary for all of us to salvage the season.





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  1. David Greene
    March 26, 2020 / 12:19 pm

    Thank you, John, for this excellent reporting, your wise counsel, and the moral leadership you always provide.

  2. March 26, 2020 / 12:35 pm

    Thanks John! This is very informative for all. Better days are ahead. God Bless Cape May and all the people who live and work there.

  3. scott
    March 26, 2020 / 1:01 pm

    this is very informative i have a local bread route in the area and when im done i go right home to self quarantine. I personally dont think any food place should be open only grocery stores pharmacies and convienence stores thats it because you cant even trust take out anymore how do you know someone that works there doesnt have it and could be infecting others

    • March 26, 2020 / 1:09 pm

      I miss you on my morning walks….aka Joy’s dad

  4. Sharon
    March 26, 2020 / 1:54 pm

    Thanks, John. I’ve also been trying to communicate how fragile our health system is down here. Cape May County has one hospital with 149 beds to service 92,000 permanent year-round residents. With almost half of the homes in the county second residences, any people coming down to vacation or quarantine at their shore home is irresponsible and potentially puts additional stress on what is an under-served community.

    • March 26, 2020 / 1:57 pm

      It is becoming more critical to keep beating the drum.

      • Sharon
        March 28, 2020 / 11:59 am

        I intend to. Thanks for the well written post.

  5. March 26, 2020 / 2:25 pm

    Great article John and, more importantly, to the point. Straight forward explanation of what is, so far, unexplainable, but with rational, common sense ideas on what to do and what to expect.
    People need to stay home… their primary homes… and put the season in an indefinite holding pattern. It is certainly not good for our beloved hospitality business… world wide… but it is vital for the survival of humanity.
    We can do this!
    Everyone is in my prayers.

  6. joyce pinkava
    March 26, 2020 / 2:29 pm

    I am glad you, John Cooke, had the guts to say NO!

  7. Larry
    March 26, 2020 / 3:21 pm

    I am a second home owner. I thought about coming down. However, after weighing all the options I believed that the only logical choice was to stay put in my primary residence for several reasons. I agree with you and I feel that was the right and logical choice, but I wonder if this “stay away” message will have any effect on the decision of others when they decide where to vacation this summer? Time will tell.

    • March 26, 2020 / 3:27 pm

      Larry I applaud your choice and share your concern.

    • Marie
      March 26, 2020 / 8:26 pm

      I believe all vacation resorts are using this “stay away” message.

    • Heather
      March 28, 2020 / 10:43 am

      Sadly, every resort town is saying the same thing. Some have even closed beaches, boardwalks and bridges. Obviously everyone is welcome and needed in theses towns during normal Circumstances. This request to stay at your primary residence just makes sense. If anything in this world makes sense right now:( Hopefully, people will understand that… and hopefully everyone will have that decision to make sooner rather than later….” where should I vacation?”

  8. March 26, 2020 / 4:34 pm

    A dilemma no one in their wildest dreams could ever have imagined!!! So many people not taking this seriously it boggles my mind! I think Cape May should ban non yearly residents until the risk subsides. If they could be tested and certified and remain in quarantine upon arrival that would be different. But with so many people a-symptomatic walking among us, outsiders are dangerous to Cape May. I am hopeful for this Summer and have our stay booked, but I am also quite worried that it may not happen or that things subside and an onslaught of tourists flock to Cape May and the virus flares up again. To not be able to escape to Cape May at any time, our place where we leave any worries at home, is so very sad. To imagine Cape May as a ghost town in the Summer is simply devastating. People need to “stay in place” and stop the spread. But like John wrote, “Human Behavior” has become the biggest worry. I agree, sadly! Praying for Cape May, my friends there, the shore and all of us everywhere! We need a miracle!

  9. Charles Place
    March 26, 2020 / 4:52 pm

    Thanks for a well written piece John. Keep you and yours safe.

  10. Kathy
    March 26, 2020 / 5:17 pm

    If we travel to NJ from MD, we are required to self quarantine for 14 days upon return to MD. My little town of primary residence currently has no COVID-19. We’re striving to keep it that way but know just as in Cape May it will come.

  11. Maureen GABBETT
    March 26, 2020 / 5:51 pm

    Hi John
    Maureen here, hope you remember me , I was a good friend of Roberta. Any way we were scheduled to come for a visit the first week of June so I could get my CM fix because I miss is sooooo much.
    Unfortunately we had to cancel but hope to get there later in the season.
    Sad to see my beloved CM so empty and desolate but I know it will return as will I.
    Stay safe

  12. March 26, 2020 / 6:13 pm

    Excellent read. I agree with you 100 %!

  13. Lois Snyder
    March 26, 2020 / 6:18 pm

    As you know, John, we are second home owners too. We love Cape May but are staying away also.
    Shelter in place doesn’t mean travel from place to place.
    Well written piece…stay safe!

  14. Ben
    March 28, 2020 / 4:40 pm

    Good post. I never felt it was appropriate for people to come to Cape May (or anywhere) during this pandemic, but what really bothered me was the nastiness and venom spewed by some on both sides of the issue.

    It should have been enough for locals to explain that food and medical resources are limited, especially in the off-season. They weren’t saying don’t ever come back, just don’t come NOW. Likewise, second homeowners should have been allowed to lament the situation (from their primary homes) without being insulted and ridiculed.

    Here in my community, and I’m not making this up, we are seeing busses filled with people from NYC arrive daily. It’s been happening for weeks as people flee the city and not surprising, we’ve also seen our local confirmed cases skyrocket. Someone very close to me was rushed to the hospital a few days ago and thank God, the initial concerns were wrong and they’re back at home safely.

    Unfortunately, the individual was taken to a hospital where three people died from coronavirus and many others were being treated. There wasn’t much of a choice, because the situation was the same at the other nearby hospital. The hospital staff were wearing n95 respirators, face shields, and full gowns. Patients were given traditional surgical masks they were required to wear. People accompanying them were given nothing, because there weren’t enough masks left without endangering the staff. It’s now reached a point where many of the staff are wearing homemade masks donated to the hospitals underneath disposable n95 respirator masks that are being used for an entire shift. They have no choice and each day, it gets worse.

    I hope people heed your advice and stay away from Cape May, because you don’t want this nightmare down there, at least not the way we’re experiencing it. I wasn’t able to accompany the ambulance to the hospital because my immune system is compromised and I have other heath conditions that make me more likely to have severe complications from Covid-19. Sitting at home where we’re all ordered to shelter in place, pacing back and forth without knowing what was happening, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever known. Even now, I worry that the person who DID accompany the ambulance was exposed to the virus, because it seems near impossible that they weren’t.

    Be safe, my friend.

  15. Ben
    March 28, 2020 / 4:41 pm

    To be clear, the person rushed to the hospital was taken for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus.