Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a state order Thursday to close some beaches in California to prevent large gatherings and crowds during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Newsom announced a “hard close” of state and local beaches in Orange County a few days after warm weekend weather prompted some coastal residents to flock to the beach, in some cases flouting state and local physical distancing guidelines. The closures are expected to go into effect Friday.
Newsom said during his daily afternoon coronavirus briefing:
“Last week, the images we saw on a few of our beaches were very disturbing.”
Newsom on Monday chastised residents in places like Orange and Ventura counties as well for going to the beach, suggesting that state officials would discuss stricter enforcement of the shelter-in-place order with the California Highway Patrol, state park patrols and other agencies.
Orange County currently has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations among the state’s 58 counties.
A Los Angeles TV station reported on a memo Wednesday night expected to be sent to law enforcement chiefs throughout the state discussing a potential closure of all state beaches and parks. Newsom said taking such a step was never on the table.
“That was their memo, but that memo never got to me.”
The governor also praised the greater Bay Area as well as various counties throughout the state, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Mendocino and Sonoma, for doing “all the right things” and following state and local guidelines to protect public health.
Some counties have announced similar efforts for local beaches. Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel announced that the county will ban all activities at the county’s beaches daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning this weekend and continuing indefinitely.
County Sheriff Jim Hart said:
“Despite warnings against traveling to Santa Cruz County for beach access and against congregating on beaches, local law enforcement spent the weekend responding to numerous issues all along our coastline.”
The sheriff continued:
“Unfortunately, these actions are necessary to protect the health and welfare of our most vulnerable residents.”
Newsom has repeated this week that California is “weeks, not months” from modifying its shelter-in-place order to begin reopening the state’s economy. That timeline, however, is predicated on residents throughout the state continuing to practice health and safety guidelines like physical distancing and regular hand washing.
On reopening the state, Newsom said:
“I don’t want to delay it. The only thing that will delay it is more weekends, like last weekend, in the next few weeks. … I want to get this economy opening as badly as everybody else does but let’s do it safely and smartly.”
Health officials around the state have confirmed a total of 48,917 coronavirus cases, including 1,982 deaths, according to Newsom. In addition, 1,192 people are in intensive care due to the virus and 3,497 are currently hospitalized across the state.