Governor orders ‘hard closure’ of all Orange County beaches

Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered a “hard closure” for all Orange County beaches after crowds flocked to the seashore last weekend despite strict social distancing orders to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The governor in a news conference Thursday said images from last weekend showing mass crowds on beaches, especially in Newport Beach, were “disturbing.” He reminded people that the pandemic is far from over, noting that 95 people in the state have died in past 24 hours.

“We can’t be driven by ideology, we have to be driven by the spread of the disease,” he said. “I want everyone to know that no one is invincible… and some of us are more vulnerable. You might be putting your loved ones at risk.”

News reports had originally stated that Newsom was planning to order closures for all beaches and state parks, but in Thursday’s news conference, he said he is taking a more “targeted” approach by focusing on Orange County, which had some of the worst offenders.

While most beaches in the state have closed, some, like Newport Beach and those in Ventura County have remained open.

Newsom said he will work with county health officials to enforce the closure.

While the infection rates are slowing, Newsom said the state will need more time before businesses can reopen and people can return to the beaches.

“Why undo all the great progress,” he said.

The governor’s plan has been met with pushback by some officials.

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

“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.”

Newport Beach police Chief Jon Lewis and fire Chief Jeff Boyles issued a joint statement Thursday morning insisting that when crowds gathered at the city’s beach last weekend, “the overwhelming majority of Newport Beach residents and visitors were families or practicing social distancing.”

As of Thursday, Orange County has seen 2,393 confirmed cases and 45 deaths from coronavirus.

—City News Service contributed to this report 

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].