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Backlash over closing California beaches grows in some coastal communities

There is growing backlash from some coastal communities to the idea that Gov. Gavin Newsom might close beaches in a continuing effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Newsom criticized beachgoers who hit the sand last weekend in Orange County, which has left its shores open while Los Angeles County has kept its beaches off-limits.

Newsom 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.

“Why put ourselves in that position when we are just a week or two away from significant modifications of our stay-at-home [order], where we can begin ... to reopen sectors of our economy that are low risk?” Newsom asked.

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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.

But the idea of forcing beaches to close was opposed by officials from Eureka as well as Orange County and San Diego.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who had praised residents early this week for their responsible behavior at the county’s recently reopened beaches, said the decision would send the wrong message.

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County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox sent letters to Newsom urging him to reconsider, saying the region had successfully implemented a safe plan and deserved the right to make the decision.

“We remain steadfastly committed to following your Executive Orders, but actions that appear punitive when our residents have been faithful and fully compliant make this challenging,” Cox wrote.

Jacob said that instead of closing beaches, Newsom should be offering regions greater flexibility as they continue to tackle the challenges presented by the pandemic.

The Humboldt County sheriff said he opposed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s expected decision Thursday to close all beaches in California.

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“As sheriff, I am the protector of constitutional rights in Humboldt County, and if an order is issued that I believe violates our constitutional rights, I will not enforce it,” the sheriff, William Honsal, said in a statement published Thursday morning.

Local leaders say Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to temporarily close all beaches in Orange County is government overreach.

Honsal said it was unfair for Northern California to be punished for Southern Californians heading to beaches in Orange County last weekend. He referred to Newsom at Monday’s press conference saying “you didn’t see those images ... around San Mateo County, up further north towards Eureka, because we had strong guidelines that were not only adopted, but were abided by.”

“The governor is a smart man,” Honsal said in his Thursday morning statement. “I hope he follows sound advice. It is not OK to punish Northern California for Southern California’s mistake, and I hope he hears that loud and clear.”

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Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner released a statement saying the idea of closing the beaches was unwise.

“Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits,” he said. “Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far. I fear that this overreaction from the state will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease, based on the best available medical information.”


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