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California

Newport Beach council votes to keep beaches open, despite crowds and rebuke from Newsom

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have closed its beaches for three consecutive weekends in May.

Instead, the council advised city staff to maintain beach access with additional enforcement of social distancing. Any visitors to the city’s beaches will see an increased presence of police officers and lifeguards, and the council supported citing anyone who doesn’t follow the social distancing order, according to a city news release.

The council action followed a busy weekend in Newport Beach as thousands of visitors sought to escape the Southern California heatwave.

“The vast majority of the beach visitors this weekend were practicing social distancing, but many were not,” the city said in its statement.

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The sudden increase in visitors generated significant stress to neighborhoods, as all city parking lots in the beach areas remain closed. The Oceanfront Boardwalk, Newport and Balboa piers, and the Wedge beach area are also still closed.

The city said in its news release that it “will continue to communicate the critical importance of responsible social distancing and adherence to the governor’s ‘stay at home’ order during the upcoming weekends.”

San Clemente, which also saw its beaches filled with visitors over the weekend, deferred taking action on a similar bid to close its beaches.

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On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom chided weekend beach crowds in Ventura and Orange counties, calling them an example of “what not to do” if the state wants to continue its progress fighting the spread of COVID-19, which would allow an easing of statewide and local stay-at-home orders.

“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off, this virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts,” he said.

The counties pushed back, saying that most of those who hit the beach followed social distancing protocols, staying six feet apart on the sand.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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