With Beach Closures, Newsom Draws A Line In The Sand

Home / With Beach Closures, Newsom Draws A Line In The Sand

ORANGE COUNTY, CA — California Gov. Gavin Newsom drew his line in the sand Thursday, ordering the closure of only Orange County beaches until further notice during the coronavirus shutdown.

Newsom stopped short of closing all beaches in the state as was the concern overnight. Instead, he announced in a televised press briefing that he is ordering a “hard close” only along Orange County’s shores. The power move comes just days after city leaders in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach flouted the governor’s calls to keep crowds off the beach and after a weekend in which nearly 80,000 people flocked to the beaches in Orange County.

Orange County’s Board of Supervisors has answered, saying Newsom’s order is “an abuse of power.” However, Newport Beach has no plan on contesting the Governor’s order, city officials said in a recent statement.

An additional 145 of Orange County’s residents tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported. The numbers of infected residents remains on the rise, and this week, 5 more residents have died as a result of the COVID-19 disease. Coronavirus outbreaks occurred last week at OC nursing homes. In Huntington Beach, 74 patients and workers tested positive for the disease.

“Orange County has been on our list of health concerns,” Newsom stated. “We’re going to have a temporary pause on the beaches out there, state and local.” Newsom said he hopes he can reopen beaches “very very quickly” if we can “get this right.”

According to Newsom, the Orange County beaches were an area of particular concern due to the lack of social distancing in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange County’s Board of Supervisors chairwoman Michelle Steel decried the order in a statement.

“Governor Newsom’s memo directing the closure of California beaches is a clear example of unnecessary government overreach,” Steel wrote. “Orange County has been successful in flattening the curve. We are regularly increasing the number of available tests, and hospitalizations are decreasing.

Our highest priority is public health and public safety, and I’ve maintained that a large part of that includes our mental and physical well-being, which includes getting fresh air and exercise.”

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said Newsom has the power to close beaches in Orange County but does not believe it is a wise decision to close all of the beaches.

“Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits,” Wagner said. “Moreover, Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far.”

Wagner called the Governor’s decision an “overreaction from the state (that) will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease, based on the best available medical information.”

Of the 3.2 million Orange County residents, 2,393 have tested positive for coronavirus, and 45 people have died, as of Thursday afternoon. According to OC Health Care reports, 190 residents are hospitalized due to the virus. Of those, 63 are in intensive care units.

Huntington Beach leads the number of positive cases of coronavirus at 223, followed by Newport Beach, with 97 residents who have tested positive for the virus, and Laguna Beach has 37 residents who tested positive. Dana Point has 23 residents positive for coronavirus, while Seal Beach remains stable with 11 people who have tested positive for the virus.

Neighboring Los Angeles County prohibited their residents from setting foot on the sand, as did Seal Beach and until this week, Laguna Beach, which was not scheduled to reopen until May 4.

Congressman Harley Rouda commended Laguna Beach for closing their shores, and creating a thoughtful plan for reopening with exercise and time limits in mind.

“As we navigate the coronavirus crisis, the people of coastal Orange County deserve clear, concise, and comprehensive plans that balance the protection of their physical, mental, and economic health,” Rouda wrote in a recent statement. “Our beaches and local economies cannot remain vacant and shuttered until a vaccine is developed.”

San Clemente has also allowed residents to exercise, walk, surf, bodyboard or shell seek, provided they were moving and not at rest on the sand. Now, that all changes.

Rouda has promised to work with Gov. Newsom and the Orange County Board of Supervisors and local leaders to push for “common sense solutions” to put Orange County back on a path to normalcy.

The governor said he has consulted with law enforcement and coastal commission officials since Monday “to really figure out what our next steps are. I can assure you that clarity will come in a very short period of time.”

Fearing that Newsom might issue a statewide beach-closure order, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took to Twitter Thursday morning to criticize such a move. In San Diego County, beaches are open in San Diego, Oceanside, Encinitas, Coronado, and Imperial Beach. Beaches in Del Mar were set to open Thursday morning, but rumors of Newsom’s pending announcement put the move on hold.

After Newsom announced only an Orange County closure, Faulconer called the decision “great news.”

“San Diego beaches will stay open under our plan approved by lifeguards and health officials,” he wrote on Twitter. “In a time of great crisis, we don’t need knee-jerk policies. We need to keep a steady hand. It’s the only way to keep the public’s trust. Keep it up, SD!”

Orange County’s Supervisor Michelle Steel says she still trusts Orange County residents to make good choices – wearing face masks, staying six feet apart, and staying home when they don’t feel well.

“We have here an opportunity to embrace personal responsibility while also taking care of our neighbors,” Steel said. “Governor Newsom clearly doesn’t share that faith, and I will be looking into an appropriate response to the Governor’s overreaction and abuse of power.”

Though police in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach have reported that social distance rules were adhered to over the weekend, Newsom was not convinced.

He advised all Californians that the state could begin lifting some restrictions in “weeks, not months” if people continue to stay at home.

That could change quickly if people get complacent, he says. Newsom noted that the state recorded a near-record number of deaths from coronavirus on Wednesday, adding, “It’s just another reminder, this disease has not gone away.”

Full coronavirus coverage: Coronavirus In California: What To Know

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