TRENTON, NJ - Responding to questions about the legality of "wave parades", where people drive by a home or other place to wave and celebrate someone's birthday, baby shower, or other occasion, New Jersey State Police Colonel Pat Callahan clarified the matter during the question-and-answer period at Governor Murphy's daily COVID-19 press briefing.
"We were receiving several questions with regards to graduations and different proposals being put out there," Callahan said. "First off, we would never and we could not prevent vehicles driving by—let’s say it’s a senior on their front porch with his or her parents. Those vehicles can go by. But we are discouraging, and the intent of my letter to the Department of Education and public and non-public schools, was directing students to gather on the front lawn of a school, a football stadium, or a town hall. What you’re doing is inviting them to gather, which is in violation of the Executive Order."
Some towns have held "wave parades" for birthdays and, more recently the question has arisen with regard to high school graduations. Some municipalities used to host such parades and then later rescinded them.
Hawthorne Fire Chief Joseph Speranza in the past had said via social media that the Hawthorne Fire Department would not be participating in such parades to preserve the resources and manpower of the department for emergencies, as well as for the safety of the all-volunteer force.
"I think there was confusion that people who are out of their cars—that was the issue," Callahan said, describing wave parades as "a great gesture to give a sense of solidarity". "But," the colonel said, "when there’s fifty people standing on top of each other, on the curb of a hospital or in front of a high school, that’s where the problem comes in. If people want to get in cars and drive to every graduate of a high school across town, and that graduate and mom and dad were on the front porch or front lawn, that’s certainly OK. But it’s the summoning of people to gather together for a graduation or that wave parade. I hope I was clear in the letter. I received a lot of feedback on that. So I hope that what I just gave clarifies what our intent is there.”
When asked to clarify regarding his letter which said wave parades should be canceled, Callahan continued. "I think I’m clarifying it here now: a wave parade that does not summon students or individuals to one location. So, if that’s seven cars that want to drive by a senior’s house and the family is on the front porch, or in the yard, that is certainly not in violation of the EO. But what I was hearing was that they were all going to be assembled at a school or at a town hall or a football field, which would be in violation of the EO."
"And not in their cars," Governor Murphy said, "that can’t happen."
Callahan agreed. "They’d be getting out of their cars to wave, and we’ve seen no masks and people closer than six feet from each other."
Murphy emphasized that the top priority was for the health and safety of all. "Our hearts are breaking here, mostly for the fatalties. But on that list of broken hearts are [graduating] seniors and their families. It stinks, there’s no other way to put it. We feel awful, but we’ve also got to make sure that by celebrating this year that we don’t lose somebody. We can’t do that, particularly with the inter-generational spread of this virus."
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