Summer 2020 and COVID-19

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

By Lauren Howie '22

Commonly posted on the walls of beach houses reads “salty air, sandy hair.” While it may sound cliche, this phrase denotes relaxation and vacation for many people every summer. 

Philadelphia-area residents often flock to the Jersey shore in the summer, in pursuit of escaping reality and soaking up the sun. However, this year is looking a little different, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its worldwide reign, affecting nearly every aspect of an ideal summer. With social distancing and masks becoming the new normal, usual summer activities have been modified, while still giving people the ability to enjoy their time off. However, as people are searching for ways to enjoy a modified summer, the statistics show that salt and sand are surely not the only things in the air right now.

From Ethan Glass '21

As the midpoint of the summer months is now in the past, Philadelphia cases are only on the rise. This is mainly due to the surge of residents going to various beaches in the Jersey shore area and bringing the virus back home with them, as well as hosting and attending large parties. Many beach and party attendees lack effective virus prevention techniques, where large gatherings are held in close spaces without proper protection. 

Popular vacation home rental company Airbnb has cracked down on many locations in the New Jersey area, some being Atlantic City and Ventnor City, two popular beach towns for Philadelphia residents. They removed 35 locations from their website after police had to disperse a party of around 700 people in one of their homes. However, this was not a singular occurrence.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood, a party was broken up of around 300 people who were not practicing social distancing. Another party, attended by lifeguards in Long Beach Island, was linked to 35 new cases in the area. In response to the topic, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey said, “Everyone who walks around refusing to wear a mask, or who hosts an indoor house party or who overstuffs a boat is directly contributing to these increases. This has to stop.” These typical summer gatherings now pose a new danger threat that some choose to ignore.

Those going to beaches also play a huge role in the case surge. Social distancing on the beach has not been enforced nor encouraged, so consequently, dense crowds have started to populate many of these beaches. Since masks are scarce and people are continuing their normal beach routine, it leads to the demise of those who desire a safe beach experience. Philadelphia’s health commissioner is “recommending that people stay away from that right now” after seeing the case spike following the Fourth of July festivities. He adds that many of the new cases of the area have been tracked from Jersey Shore beaches. While there are surely still safe ways to enjoy the waves, the shore has become a new hotspot for COVID-19. 

Due to these circumstances, the statistics show disheartening results. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the 7-day statewide average was 785 cases and 12 deaths, a number drastically higher than it was before summer began in June. Along with the state of New Jersey, in the last 14 days, Montgomery, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties have all seen a rise in cases as the summer progressed. Gov. Murphy tells, “These numbers are setting off alarms,” after the state reached its all-time low in cases only a few weeks ago and has rapidly begun to retract. He, among many others, believes the shore plays a significant role in this.

However, there are still other alternative ideas to remain safe and still have some fun. For example, there are socially distanced outdoor locations such as Parks on Tap, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and Cherry Street Pier. Wonderspaces, a sound and light show, is open in the Fashion District and allows visitors to walk through and take photos while enjoying the sight. Online concerts and outdoor city walking tours have also been made available. For those who are not ready to be around others, the Philadelphia Virtual Music Festival and the Kimmel Center’s virtual live concerts provide this option. These modifications of normal activities prove beneficial in maintaining the joy of the summer while still prioritizing health.

This summer continues to highlight the importance of COVID-safe activities. Philadelphia-area residents have been actively combating the spread of the pandemic but the large gatherings display worrisome behavior for the future of the virus. Summer usually attributes to long days spent having fun in the sun, however, the downsides of this year are much more severe than just a sunburn.

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