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Oxnard closes parks and beaches over Easter weekend amid coronavirus restrictions

A woman wears a protective mask while waiting for a bus on Main Street in downtown Ventura.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ventura County reported its seventh coronavirus-related death this week as public health officials urged residents to continue to stay home and practice social distancing through the Easter holiday.

Officials reported 11 new cases of people testing positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, on Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 274. This includes 108 people who have recovered and 54 who were hospitalized during their illness. There are 159 cases of the virus under active quarantine, and more than 5,200 people have been tested countywide, authorities said.

Dr. Robert Levin, the county’s public health officer, said during a news conference that the number of cases shows the county is “maintaining a fairly low baseline.”

“It’s hard not to get optimistic about how we’re doing,” he said. “The reason we’re doing so well ... is all because of you and the way you’re honoring this quarantine and social distancing. I don’t want to get too optimistic. We could always see this wave hit us, but I think we need to feel good about where we are right now.”

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Of the confirmed cases, 64 people were infected by someone who had already tested positive, and 150 people got it from someone in the community, officials said. Sixteen of the cases were travel-related. The origins of 44 other cases are under investigation.

Of the seven people who have died, five were in their 70s and two, who also had underlying health conditions, were in their 80s, Levin said.

Levin and other county officials continued to appeal to religious leaders throughout Ventura County to set an example for their parishioners, urging them to hold Easter services via recording or livestream rather than in person.

Streaming church services and virtual Easter egg hunts are among the ways to make the most of our first — and, we hope, last — Easter in self-isolation.

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“A church is not an essential business under the ‘stay-well-at-home’ order for the purpose of defeating this virus,” Levin said Wednesday. “Please celebrate Easter Sunday virtually and help parishioners be creative in how they deal with children and adolescents and elders and the traditional events and do this via livestream. In-person gatherings put people’s lives at risk.”

Levin said the county, which already has limited the operations of businesses — including grocery stores and restaurants — and implemented social distancing orders that restrict gatherings and people’s movements, will likely issue an amended stay-at-home order in the coming days.

Oxnard, the most populous city in the county, took the recommendations a step further this week when it announced the temporary closure of parks and beaches.

The city, which has kept its recreational areas open through the outbreak, will close them on Saturday and Sunday to discourage crowds from gathering to celebrate the holiday. Nearby county beaches, including Hollywood, Silver Strand and Kiddie, will also close over the weekend. They are expected to reopen Monday, said Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney.

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Officers will be patrolling the city’s open spaces, and anyone found on the beach or in a park could be arrested or face a misdemeanor citation, which can include a $1,000 fine.

Officials across Southern California have been stepping up coronavirus closures in advance of the holiday.

In Los Angeles County, all public parks will be closed from Saturday night through Monday morning. City and county beaches and trailheads are already closed.

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In Orange County, where car cruising is an Easter tradition in Santa Ana, police said they will be out in force to prevent such activities.

“Before COVID-19 police and prosecutors never envisioned a circumstance where we would be called to enforce broad health orders that restrict individual freedoms and restrict individual liberty and require businesses to close their doors to customers,” said Ventura County District Atty. Greg Totten. “But this virus is an exceedingly dangerous predator.”

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.


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