The state of New Jersey is reopening restrooms at state and county parks following reports that visitors had left behind feces and urine-filled bottles at parks as the public restrooms remained closed.
Governor Phil Murphy allowed the reopening of state parks on May 2 after nearly a month of closure due to social distancing concerns. The parks were then reopened with parking lots limited to 50 percent capacity. While recreational activities such as jogging, biking, hiking, fishing were allowed, picnics, swimming areas and playgrounds remained closed for users.
As the park bathrooms also remained closed considering the high risk of exposure to the deadly virus, New Jersey State Park police found the parks littered with "an inordinate amount" of human excreta and water bottles filled with urine.
Col. Patrick Callahan, head of the state police, and Gov. Phil Murphy stressed at a press conference on Monday that park-goers relieving themselves in the parks will not be tolerated and asked park visitors to "plan accordingly" knowing that there aren't any available bathrooms.
"There is a zero tolerance for that," Callahan said the press briefing. "People should plan accordingly and not be urinating in bottles and leaving them behind."
Re-opening of beaches on the cards
Murphy announced the reopening of the public bathrooms at parks on Thursday during his daily coronavirus briefing in Trenton, stating that the bathrooms could open as early as this weekend after they are properly cleaned and sanitized.
He added that park-goers and golfers must continue to follow social distancing norms and encouraged them to cover their faces with a cloth when around other people and remember to wash hands frequently.
The re-opening of park restrooms is part of an executive order signed by Murphy that also allows the reopening of beaches in New Jersey over the Memorial Day weekend, which is a little more than a week away.
Easing of restrictions across the state
Murphy had placed the Garden State â one of the country's coronavirus hotspots â under strict lockdown orders for the last two months to contain the spread of the virus. But as the outbreak has slowed in the last few weeks, he has begun to slowly peel back the restrictions.
The governor announced on Wednesday he will allow nonessential retail businesses to offer curbside pickup and nonessential construction to resume, while also allowing drive-in and drive-through events, as previously reported by International Business Times.