State Watch

California governor to order closure of all beaches, parks after massive crowds appear

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will reportedly order the closure of all beaches and state parks following a weekend during which thousands of people packed public areas despite social distancing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Newsom is expected to announce the decision on Thursday, according to a memo sent to police chiefs around the state and obtained by CNN. The memo said that state officials wanted to give police departments “a heads up” so they could plan for any situations they “might expect as a result.” 

It also noted that overcrowding at some beaches in Southern California was behind the move to follow through with a statewide shutdown. 

As the state experienced its first major heat wave of the year last weekend, tens of thousands of people converged on beaches in Orange and Ventura counties, which had been re-opened with modified restrictions. About 90,000 people visited Newport Beach alone over the weekend. Photos also showed huge crowds lining Huntington Beach on Saturday and Sunday. 

The swarm of visitors came as beaches remained closed under stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. San Diego beaches reopened on Monday. 

Newsom, who first issued the state’s stay-at-home order in mid-March, condemned the crowds during his daily news briefing on Monday, saying that “this virus doesn’t take the weekends off.”

“This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful, sunny day around our coasts,” he added. “The virus is as transmittable as it’s ever been. … It is ubiquitous, it is invisible, and it remains deadly. Ask the 45 families who lost a loved one in the last 48 hours.”

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said in a statement to The Associated Press that Newsom’s order could represent an “overreaction,” though he acknowledged the state had the authority to make such a move. 

“Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far,” he said. “I fear that this overreaction from the state will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease, based on the best available medical information.”

Newsom’s order is expected to be announced just a day after the Newport Beach City Council voted to keep the town’s public areas open during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Obviously this is a very serious issue and we have to stay ahead of it,” Kevin Muldoon, a Newport Beach City Council member, said. “But it’s no cause for panic to close our beaches, to be afraid of others especially if they keep their distance.”

California’s health department has confirmed 46,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,887 deaths from it. Newsom has said that the state has seen a flattening of the curve in terms of hospitalizations, but he also said that reopening nonessential businesses and schools is still “weeks away.”

The governor said on Twitter on Tuesday that the state is still in the first phase of its reopening plan. He said that next phase would include a gradual lifting of restrictions on retail and manufacturing companies, as well as public spaces. 

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