Gov. Newsom orders all CA beaches closed after crowds formed last weekend


We all remember those images of Florida beaches that were packed with people even as the state was starting to issue stay-at-home orders last month.

Something similar happened in California over the weekend and it has created a battle between local government and the governor. Specifically, it happened in Orange County not far from my house. We had a very warm weekend and this is what Newport Beach looked like.

Photos like that ricocheted around the internet and caused some people to worry this would cause the virus to spread.

In response to those images Gov. Newsom to make a lengthy statement Monday criticizing beach goers, specifically those in Orange County and Ventura County. The video of his statement is below but he said in part, “I want to just confront the topic that is top of mind and those are the images we saw over the weekend, the images down in Orange County and Ventura County on our beaches,” he said. He continued, “Those images are an example of what not to see, people, what not to do if we’re going to make the meaningful progress that we’ve made in the last few weeks extend into the next number of weeks.” He added, “This virus doesn’t take the weekends off.”

Despite being called out by the governor, Newport Beach officials voted the following day to keep the beaches open. That was apparently the last straw for Gov. Newsom who made plans to announce Thursday that all beaches and state parks will be shut down as of Friday:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will order all beaches and state parks closed starting Friday after people thronged the seashore last weekend despite his social distancing order that aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But that’s far from the end of this. Yesterday an NPR/Marist poll showed that a slight majority of Republicans now think it’s time for people to get back to work even as a majority of Democrats say no. And this is where the political geography of California comes into play. Gov. Newsom is a progressive who was formerly the Mayor of San Francisco. Orange County, which is in southern California, isn’t as conservative as it once was but there are still a lot of Republicans here who are thinking it’s time to start opening things up rather than shut them down. That’s true of people on the street who say they want the beaches open:

“It’s time to move on,” Huntington Beach resident Jim Puro, 59, said Thursday. “We need to start opening up and I can’t think of a better way than to be out in the sun.”

The beaches are expansive, he argued. “There is more than enough space for people to socially distance themselves,” he said.

It’s also true of some elected officials who pushed back on the planned shut down by the governor. The Mayor of Newport Beach put out this statement, complete with photos from a police helicopter, disputing the claim that beaches were overcrowded last weekend. It reads in part, “We understand photos captured some individuals who were not social distancing. However, the photos included below, taken from out police helicopter on the peak day of attendance…reflect what we saw along much of the City’s seven miles of ocean beaches this past weekend.”

Here’s a larger view of those photos:

An Orange County supervisor named Don Wagner put out his own statement saying that while the governor had the authority to close the beaches it was not a good idea. “I fear that this overreaction from the state will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease,” he wrote. Notice the person below who sent her own beach photo in response.

At least one Sheriff in the state, in northern Humboldt county, has said he will not enforce the governor’s order:

“As Sheriff, I am the protector of constitutional rights in Humboldt County, and if an order is issued that I believe violates our constitutional rights, I will not enforce it,” said Sheriff William Honsal.

So here’s the video of Gov. Newsom scolding people Monday. It appears he is going to shut the beaches but I wonder if law enforcement in Orange County will enforce that order.

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