Coronavirus California beach closure: Newsom orders Orange County beaches to close after seeing weekend crowds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Concerned after seeing thousands of people on Orange County beaches over the past weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the closure of all beaches and parks in the county. The order will be effective May 1.

It was originally reported that Newsom was going to announce the closure of all beaches statewide, but he clarified during a press conference Thursday that the temporary closure would only be mandated in Orange County.

During this weekend's Southern California heat wave, a number of beaches in Orange County were visibly crowded with thousands of people. The sight clearly disturbed the governor, who admonished beachgoers in a press conference on Monday.

"People that are congregating there that weren't practicing physical distancing that may go back to their community outside of Orange County and may not even know that they contracted the disease and now they put other people at risk, put our hospital system at risk," he said.

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The governor said "mixing" with others, particularly in large groups, could delay the state's ability to reopen other activities as it tries to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We can't be driven by ideology, we have to be driven by the spread of this disease," Newsom said. "This disease has not gone away."

Newsom added that he hopes the order won't last very long. But he said he felt he had to do it to protect public health.

A memo to the state's police chiefs on Wednesday indicated Newsom planned to close all beaches in the state. However, the governor said he was not privy to the memo, and the closure would only apply to Orange County beaches.

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"We're guided by health, we're guided by your health and the health of others. I want everybody to know no one is invincible," Newsom said.

Newsom said the problem wasn't widespread across the state though, and he pointed to Los Angeles County, where beaches remain closed.

"About 100 beaches, easily defined 100 beaches, and there were five where we had some particular challenges. Overwhelming majority there were no major issues. Quite frankly no issues," he said.

He said such risky behavior could delay the state's ability to reopen other activities as it tries to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Those images are an example of what not to see, what not to do if we're going to make the meaningful progress we've made the past couple of weeks," Newsom said.


Several local officials defended the decision to keep beaches open, with some insisting that beachgoers were maintaining social distancing.

California State Assemblymember Melissa Melendez fired back at Newsom's decision on Twitter, stating "This is not going to end well. Californians are not children you can ground when they don't 'behave' the way you want."

Orange County Board of Supervisors member Donald Wagner on Wednesday acknowledged the governor's ability to close the county's beaches, but said "it is not wise to do so."

"Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits," Wagner wrote.

VIDEO: Thousands pack Orange County beaches for second-straight day as SoCal heat wave continues
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Thousands of people flocked to Huntington Beach again on Saturday, one day after crowds descended upon the beach amid the ongoing heat wave.



"Moreover, Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far. 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."
The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday considered an ordinance to close the beaches for several weekends, but decided not to approve it.

The Laguna Beach City Council, which closed its beaches last month, voted Tuesday to reopen them for "active use only'' on weekdays beginning Monday. Beachgoers were to be allowed if they kept 6 feet apart and they were prohibited from sitting down, putting a beach towel or chair on the sand. Only active uses like running or swimming were allowed.

Some of those beach cities have also seen large protests seeking to lift the stay-at-home orders. More than 200 showed up at one such rally in Huntington Beach and many of them were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

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