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California

Newsom poised to close beaches throughout the state to slow coronavirus spread

Newport Beach on Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to order the closure of all California beaches in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a source said Wednesday.

A memo sent to California police chiefs said the governor intended to make the announcement Thursday. A law enforcement source confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that authorities were briefed on the plans and that they might include closure of some parks.

The governor’s office declined to comment Wednesday night. But earlier in the day, Newsom said he was mulling more action on beaches.

Southern California had its first big heat wave over the weekend, but L.A. County beaches are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Beaches in nearby counties were open, however. Here are a few scenes from the weekend.
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“I’m working with state parks and others,” he said. “And a lot of our other partners — Coastal Commission, State Lands [Commission] and others — to really figure out what our next steps are. And I can assure you that ... clarity will come in a very short period of time.”

Until now, cities and counties up and down the state have been left to make the tricky decision of balancing public health risks while also providing equitable access to the outdoors. Many counties, such as Santa Cruz and Monterey, have been doing partial closures but have struggled with overcrowding.

Local officials decided this week to close Lovers Point Beach along Monterey Bay, for example, due to overcrowding.

Going to the beach is our birthright as native Californians — and our promise to newcomers. It’s our gift from the Creator — a trade-off for all the quakes, wildfires, mudslides and smog.
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The California Coastal Commission, usually the gatekeeper of the state’s beach access law, has been granting emergency waivers to local officials to make the decision whether to close their beaches.

Newsom on Monday criticized Californians who defied the statewide stay-at-home order and flocked to beaches over the weekend, saying that ignoring restrictions could prolong the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Newsom’s comments came after thousands of beachgoers descended on the coasts in Orange and Ventura counties despite his pleas last week to avoid doing so during the warm weekend.

“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off,” Newsom said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Sacramento. “The only thing that will set us back is people stopping to practice physical distancing and appropriate social distancing. That’s the only thing that’s going to slow down our ability to reopen this economy.”

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City leaders in Newport Beach debated closing their beaches during a meeting Tuesday night. But after hours of discussion, the council decided against it.

Laguna Beach will reopen city beaches for several hours on weekday mornings beginning Monday, allowing water activities and walking or jogging along the shore.

On Tuesday, Newsom unveiled a broad outline of a plan to lift his stay-at-home order and slowly ease the restrictions on Californians in four stages in the weeks and months ahead. The governor also announced that schools could potentially reopen in July or August, catching educators who were learning about it for the first time off guard.

In the meantime, he urged Californians on Wednesday to stay home and practice physical distancing to avoid spoiling the progress the state has made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as he prepares to allow some businesses to gradually reopen.

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Eric Nunez, president of the chiefs’ association, told the Associated Press that the memo was sent to give police leaders a heads up before a Thursday announcement.


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