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‘I’m not that scared’: People flock to beaches again, bringing hand sanitizer and hope

Huntington Beach police patrol the beach near the pier Saturday as thousands of people enjoy a warm, sunny day amid stay-at-home and social-distancing mandates to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

A chilly breeze and cloudy skies didn’t deter hundreds of families, friends and couples from descending on Huntington Beach early Sunday.

Couples lay on beach towels watching dozens of surfers ride the waves, as others played on the beach. A mother kept watch over young boys digging holes with a shovel near the shore, while several teenagers flopped on boogie boards.

Most people kept a safe distance between each other. Many donned hats, sunglasses and umbrellas but few wore protective face masks.

Eva Sanchez, dressed in a red polka dot swimsuit, sat on a beach towel looking out at the ocean.

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With her husband Jorge, 21, and their 7-month baby Mateo, they kept their distance from other beach-goers.

“I wanted to get out of the house for a little bit, bring [Mateo] to the beach because I bought him his clothes,” said Sanchez, 20, laughing.

The Azusa resident wasn’t too concerned about the spread of the virus. She and her family were well stocked with hand sanitizer and were avoiding touching things unnecessarily.

“I believe I’m taking my precautions, practicing social distancing, constantly washing our hands,” she said. “So I’m not that scared.”

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Asked if she was concerned about others not abiding by social distancing orders, she said: “As long as it doesn’t interfere with me, I feel like that’s completely up to them and how they view COVID-19.”

Orange County beaches drew crowds again Sunday amid hot weather and pent-up energy from stay-at-home orders. Los Angeles County kept its beaches closed, but they were open in Orange and Ventura counties. Officials closed parking lots in hopes of keeping people from driving in. But many like Sanchez made the trip.

Some have expressed concern about the crowds, worried it might cause the coronavirus to spread. But officials said everything seemed manageable and that many people tried to stay at least six feet apart from one another.

Heather Rangel, press information officer for the Newport Beach Police Department, said Saturday there had been no arrests or citations related to the stay-at-home orders. Angie Bennett, spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach Police Department, said no one was cited for violating social-distancing guidelines.

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Ashley Bautista, public information officer for Ventura County, said there was a law enforcement presence at all of the county’s beaches, and officers were informing visitors that they were supposed to only walk, run, swim or surf. Beach-goers were complying, she said.

“We appreciate that our community members are making these sacrifices,” she said, “and that local law enforcement is focused on education for compliance.”

Christopher Sumners, 31, drove from Corona to Huntington Beach on Sunday morning with several friends to relax and enjoy a day in the sun, he said, looking up at the cloudy skies.

“And freedom, also,” he said, laughing and echoing a friend’s remark.

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He and five friends lay out on several beach towels chatting, unconcerned by the threat of the coronavirus. “I think you have better chances of winning the lottery or getting hit by a car than getting coronavirus,” said Sumners.

“Wash your hands like you were taught when you were a child and I think you’re fine,” he said, adding that as long as people aren’t in enclosed crowded spaces, the chances of contracting the virus are slim.


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