By Shawn Raymundo and Lillian Boyd
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, April 30, issued a new order, directing all of Orange County’s beaches, including beaches in Dana Point, to close temporarily.
During his daily press briefing Thursday, Newsom said the order is targeting only Orange County’s beaches, and is “very focused” while “trying to solve a health problem; trying to mitigate one that can grow into the future.” “We’re going to have a temporary pause on the beaches down there,” he said, emphasizing it included state and local beaches.
The governor’s order comes as a direct response to the thousands of people who flocked to some of Orange County’s beaches last weekend when a heat wave hit Southern California. News photos of the large crowds visibly defying the state’s social distancing guidelines this past weekend, notably in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, gained widespread media attention and drew the ire of the governor.
In a press conference on Monday, April 27, Newsom admonished the beachgoers, stating that such actions will prevent the state from continuing to make “the meaningful progress we’ve made the past couple of weeks.” Late Wednesday night, April 29, a memo that the California Police Chiefs Association sent to police chiefs throughout the state, leaked to the press, explaining that Newsom was expected to announce a statewide closure of all beaches and state parks. Newsom on Thursday clarified that “we are going to do a hard close just in that part of the state, just that county.” The governor also said he hoped it is “a short-term adjustment.”
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett holds the 5th District seat, which represents coastal cities including Dana Point and San Clemente. “I know emotions are running high, people are tired of being cooped up at home,” Bartlett told The Capistrano Dispatch.
“Public safety and health is the number one priority. As we look to the future, we need to find an appropriate balance.” Bartlett pointed to San Diego County as an example for a community effectively able to keep beaches open for active use. “There are ways we can safely use the beach but keep everyone moving,” Bartlett said. “We have a number of members of the community who want to recreate. But we want to do everything we can to reduce the spread.”
Newsom also noted during his press briefing that Orange County is among the top four communities where the state has seen a concentration of cases. As of April 29, there have been at total of 48,917 confirmed cases of coronavirus in California, with 1,982 fatalities, according to the California Department of Public Health. The largest pocket of cases in the state has centered on Southern California, particularly Los Angeles County, where there has been 22,560 positive cases. Based on the most recent data from both the state and the Orange County Health Care Agency, the number of cumulative positive cases in Orange County is roughly 2,400 with about 45 deaths.
Within the past week, the county has seen four single-day spikes of more than 100 new cases. On April 25, the county health office reported 125 new cases, then 101 new cases on April 26, 108 new cases on April 29 and 145 new cases on April 30. About 4,000 people in California who have contracted the virus are currently hospitalized, with 1,186 of them being treated in intensive care units, the latest health department data reports. Nearly 200 of those patients are in Orange County, and among them, 63 are in ICUs. Nationwide, the U.S. this week hit a milestone in total case count, reaching more than 1 million cumulative cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 57,500 people have died of COVID-19 so far in the U.S.
California Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla said he supports the governor’s action. “The Coastal Commission’s entire mission is ensuring access to the coast, and I recognize that many Southern Californians will be very disappointed with the decision,” Padilla said. “However, the governor’s action will serve to protect the health, safety and lives of all Californians. Our coast is a precious resource for all of us but today we should remember what’s most precious — life itself and the health of our communities.” Padilla is also a Chula Vista councilmember. He says he had COVID-19 and was hospitalized for three weeks and in ICU on a ventilator for 11 days.
Update: The City of Dana Point intends to participate in litigation to seek a temporary restraining order against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to close Orange County beaches.