California Gov. Gavin Newsom closed the entire 42 miles of Orange County’s coast last week on April 30 after crowds swarmed select beaches during a recent heat wave. However, most beaches in Orange County have reopened this week for only “active recreation” following the temporary “hard closure” that was issued to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Residents can now use the beaches for activities such as walking, jogging, swimming and surfing from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. However, beach parking lots remain closed.
Activities such as sunbathing and large gatherings have been prohibited and must actively be avoided by all beachgoers. To discourage stationary or leisurely activity, beachgoers are also expected to maintain as much physical distancing as possible to prevent loitering.
Newport Beach was one of the first beaches to reopen.
“Obviously this is a very serious issue and we have to stay ahead of it,” Councilman Kevin Muldoon said in an interview with OC register. “But it’s no cause for panic to close our beaches, to be afraid of others especially if they keep their distance.”
Newport Beach’s decision called for more officials to direct traffic and enforce safety rules, adding lifeguards and fire staff for education on the shore.
More Orange County cities such as Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Dana Point have been given the approval to reopen sections of their coastline. The California Natural Resources Agency made an announcement on Tuesday, May 5 that the plan submitted by these three cities were consistent with Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
“The plans include a range of measures to avoid overcrowding and enable safe physical distancing on the beach,” the announcement said.
San Clemente State Beaches, as well as Dana Point’s Doheny State Beach, have been opened to the general public. Huntington and Bolsa Chica state beaches are also opened, according to State Parks Orange Coast Superintendent Kevin Pearsall. All are opened for recreational use, but loitering and hanging around are not permitted. Parking lots for these beaches will also remain closed.
Gov. Newsom discussed how he worked with officials in Laguna Beach and San Clemente to reopen the beaches. Similar commitments were made in terms of procedures and protocol in Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Dana Point.
“I couldn’t be more complementary to their local leaders,” he said in an interview with OC register, calling the process “collaborative and cooperative.”
According to county health officials, the ability to go outside and enjoy beaches is important for mental and social health.
Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said that she expects all residents within the county to listen to the governor’s orders and practice physical distancing. The county has closed off access to certain points of beaches to discourage visitors from violating rules.
Sarah Kim is a City News Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.