Belmar will join nearby Manasquan in limiting the amount of beach badges sold, as it seeks to avoid crowds that could spread the novel coronavirus.

The borough said Friday night it would sell a maximum of 7,500 daily beach badges, possibly less because of the presence of seasonal beach badge holders "as well as the tides on any given day."

It will continue to ask beach-goers to observe social distancing, not to play ball games and not to touch the controls of its touchless beach showers. Face masks are required outside statewide, including on beaches, when social distancing isn't possible.

Manasquan said Friday it too would limit beach crowds this weekend after an outbreak of 23 COVID-19 cases traced back to employees of the Beach and Recreation departments. Manasquan will limit its sale of beach tags on Saturday and Sunday to 1,000 per day. If beaches become too crowded people will be directed to less crowded beaches and access will be closed.

"I have to ask everyone in town whether you live here, whether you're visiting, please follow the rules," Borough Council President Mike Mangan said. "We all have to be more vigilant about keeping our distance, washing our hands and wearing face coverings in public."

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Belmar, a popular destination for Shore-goers because of both its beach and its vibrant bar and restaurant scene, caught Gov. Phil Murphy's attention last month when large crowds swarmed D'Jais, a popular oceanfront nightclub. Few patrons wore face coverings, and fewer still kept their distance from others on a packed dance floor.

Murphy said at the time the state would not hesitate to reimpose harsher restrictions if people don't behave.

“We cannot let up on our social distancing or our responsibility just because the sun is out,” the governor said. “We can't be lulled into complacency and think it's OK to crowd around a bar. That is how flare-ups happen.”

New Jersey has slowly eased restrictions on business operations and crowd sizes for the last several weeks, notably making an exception to its planned reopening schedule when Murphy announced indoor dining would be postponed indefinitely, just days before it was slated to restart early this month.

New Jersey currently allows outdoor gatherings of up to 500 people, with social distancing. It's a circumstance Murphy has said is made possible by declining numbers of novel coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Early in New Jersey's coronavirus shutdown, gatherings of any sort were prohibited.

But New Jersey this week saw New Jersey's rate of transmission climb — an estimate of how many new people each person with coronavirus infects —  to 1.11. It's been hovering around the 1.0 mark in recent weeks. It exceeded 1.0 earlier this month after about 10 weeks below that benchmark, then dipped below it again.

New Jersey will see some of its most severe heat of the season so far this weekend, with a heat advisory in effect starting Sunday mid-day.

"Sunday and Monday will be very hot and humid — that is an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous combination," New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said in his most recent report. "We're talking about widespread temperatures in the 90s, with a heat index probably over 100 degrees."

— Includes previous reporting by Dan Alexander and the Associated Press

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