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Beaches lure some despite coronavirus risks: ‘It’s hot. Nobody wants to be inside’

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Newport Beach police made sure visitors knew about the weekend boardwalk closure but declined to issue any tickets.
(Newport Beach Police Department)

Sebastian Alcaraz was preparing to surf at 11th Street in Newport Beach on Friday afternoon, as he has continued to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 17-year-old from Long Beach said he was sick for about a week in January and lost his senses of taste and smell. He now believes that he was infected with the coronavirus.

Alcaraz’s friend, Natalie Peart of Huntington Beach, 23, said she felt safe going to the beach.

“We’re in California; we’re the most chill people,” Peart said. “Everyone’s social. Nobody wants to give that up, you know? … People are going out because we’ve been quarantined for a month, and now it’s hot. Nobody wants to be inside.”

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As temperatures warmed up this weekend, some were following official guidance and staying away from the beach while others said they just could not resist.

Most Ventura and Orange county beaches are open, but many parking lots, piers and recreation spaces are closed. Officials in both counties implored visitors to either stay away altogether or to abide by social distancing rules.

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Coronavirus social distancing regulations are in effect in Newport Beach, shown March 31.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County beaches are closed, and Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, has said repeatedly that they must remain closed to prevent an overflow of visitors who might be carrying the coronavirus. She has also asked residents not to crowd beaches in neighboring Ventura and Orange counties.

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“We have high rates of illness and a lot of people in our county who are dying. We know it’s best right now for us Angelenos to stay home, or stay outside [in] your own yard or your own neighborhood,” Ferrer told the media Wednesday.

In Huntington Beach, officials said the heat brought out people to the water Friday, but it was not as many as in normal times.

“The crowds are not what you would typically see on a day like today, that’s not during a pandemic,” Huntington Beach police spokeswoman Angie Bennett said, though she did allow, “There are more people down at our beaches than have been in the last few months.”

Record temperatures were reported Friday at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, where the high of 99 degrees broke the old record of 93 set in 1965, and at UCLA, where a recording of 87 degrees broke the old record of 86 set in 2001.

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Popular Newport Beach surfing destination the Wedge remains closed, but people still flocked to the beach on Friday. Brett Polley of Irvine, 20, hung out with his friends at 32nd Street and played Spikeball, while making sure to use disinfectant wipes for the ball.

“It’s a hot day, so you want to go down to the beach,” Polley said. “We’re kind of tired of being in our houses. We’ve been keeping up with the news lately … and we really believe that this heat wave will drop people out, weaken the virus at least.”


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