Santa Cruz ends beach closure because 'people are not willing to be governed anymore'

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Beaches in Santa Cruz County will reopen starting at midnight Thursday night, even as the county's coronavirus continue to rise.

"We had hoped to continue the beach closure until after Fourth of July weekend, but it's become impossible for law enforcement to continue to enforce that closure," said Santa Cruz County health officer Dr. Gail Newel. "People are not willing to be governed anymore in that regard."

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Beaches have been closed to sunbathers and picnickers for weeks in Santa Cruz, with a "keep it moving" policy to discourage congregating. That will no longer be the case starting Friday morning.

Starting July 6, the county's shelter-in-place order will expire, bringing Santa Cruz County fully in line with the state's reopening timeline.

However, a stricter local mask order is being put in place. Face coverings for children over the age of 2 are now required, no longer optional.

Over the weekend, the county saw 28 new COVID-19 cases. The increase was "by far the greatest increase that we've had to date in our county," said Newel. "We actually had to redesign our epidemiological graph on the data dashboard to accommodate numbers of that size."

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"This is not a surprise. This is exactly what we've been expecting when reopening, with the political protests and our community memorials and vigils," said Newel.

Most known outbreaks in the county have been traced back to family gatherings, especially around Mother's Day, Memorial Day and graduations, Newel added.

"Almost all COVID-19 transmission in our community ... are when people are within 6 feet of each other for a prolonged period of time, not wearing face coverings."

Santa Cruz County now has 106 active cases, up from around 40 two weeks ago, Newel said.

There have 337 total COVID-19 cases county-wide and three deaths.

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