Get vaccinated on your way to the beach?

When you head down the shore, before you hit the beach you might be able to get a COVID-19 test or even a vaccine.

State Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, thinks offering both options would help improve New Jersey's struggling tourism industry. He is proposing testing stations and vaccination clinics on New Jersey boardwalks.

Dancer says these mobile testing and vaccination centers "could help protect the health and safety of tourism and hospitality professionals, year-round coastal residents, and tourists considering vacations at the shore." He also believes it would support an economic recovery down the shore while responsibly addressing coronavirus concerns.

The New Jersey Tourism industry has been disproportionally effected by pandemic restrictions and there continues to be much anxiety about the summer of 2021. Even as attractions and destinations prepare to open in a few weeks, enough restrictions remain in place to make many businesses worried about how they will fare this year after a disastrous 2020.

Gov. Phil Murphy has put lifting further restrictions on things like indoor dining on "pause" while the state monitors a rise in COVID mutations. However, during Wednesday's COVID briefing, Murphy did say he still believes we will return to some kind of normalcy by the start of the summer season. The unofficial start of the season is Memorial Day weekend, which begins May 28.

New Jersey is on pace to have well over 5 million residents fully vaccinated by Memorial Day, far more than the governor's target of 4.7 million, or 70% of the adult population. The encouraging vaccination statistics are at odds with other metrics that show New Jersey currently has the 3rd highest hospitalization rate and 7th highest death rate from COVID.

State Health commissioner Judy Persichilli blamed both on COVID mutations circulating around the state. As more residents get vaccinated and more research comes in determining how effective current vaccines are against those variants, reopening plans could be un-paused and accelerated. For businesses that have a few short months to make their entire year, that would be a lifesaver.

Whether adding vaccination stations and testing centers to New Jersey boardwalks would have any ultimate impact on tourism for 2021 is unclear. Dancer believes it would.

"If we want to return to a booming tourism industry, we should be boosting our efforts at the Jersey Shore,” said Dancer. “This summer already looks promising and the state should plan now on increasing access to testing and vaccinations in this region.”

Dancer’s resolution (AR231) has been referred to the Assembly Health Committee.

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