Orange County reports 5 more coronavirus deaths as dispute rages over beach closures

Protesting Orange County beach closures in Laguna Beach.
Protesters staged a temporary takeover of a beach in Laguna Beach on Saturday after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Orange County beaches closed.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County health officials reported five additional coronavirus-linked fatalities Monday, bringing the region’s death toll to 57.

In the latest update — which followed days of protests over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to close local beaches — the county also confirmed another 89 coronavirus infections, bringing its cumulative total to 2,819 since the outbreak began.

The number of new COVID-19 cases Orange County announced Monday was the lowest since April 28. The county has seen its daily caseload swell recently as it has significantly increased testing.


Monday was a bit of an outlier in that respect. The county reported only 237 tests — the fewest on any one day in about a month.

At the Huntington Beach pier about 50 protesters gathered to pick up where they had left off on Friday. The turnout was light, but the rhetoric was just as passionate.

Overall, 37,050 people have been screened countywide, and about 7.6% have tested positive for coronavirus infection.

The county’s observed mortality rate associated with COVID-19 is about 2%, roughly half that of the state’s and of neighboring Los Angeles County’s.

With another heat wave on tap this week, though, many eyes have been on the county’s beaches — which Newsom ordered closed Thursday after thousands of residents and weekend visitors flocked to the shore despite California’s statewide stay-at-home order.

The decision drew, and continues to draw, condemnation from some county officials who claim the governor overstepped and was misled by media photographs that misconstrued what the beach conditions were actually like.

Huntington Beach and Dana Point filed a lawsuit against the decision, and Newport Beach has agreed to file a court brief in support of the endeavor.

Supervisor Don Wagner said Monday that he didn’t expect the county would join the legal action against the state regarding the beach closure.

“We continue — or some of us, at least, are continuing — to suggest the governor’s policy is wrong, misguided, ought to be rethought, but that’s not a legal issue that we’re going to fight to my knowledge,” he said.

In Orange County, anger over coronavirus beach closures comes amid growing unrest in a place known for years as a bastion of “cowboy capitalism.”

State officials announced Monday that Laguna Beach and San Clemente would be allowed to open their sandy shores this week, with some limitations in place.

Both cities previously submitted plans to the state that would allow active recreation along their coastlines while maintaining measures to avoid overcrowding and allow for appropriate physical distancing.

“We appreciate the governor’s willingness to work with us to provide a responsible, gradual approach to reopening all beaches in Laguna Beach for active recreation,” city Mayor Bob Whalen said in a statement Monday. “This will allow people the opportunity to walk, jog, swim and surf and get some fresh air and exercise on a limited basis, but not congregate or gather in large groups.”

Wagner, however, characterized the idea of an active plan as “half steps that satisfy, I guess, the governor’s need to feel like he’s won something.”

“The science is entirely in favor of the position the county took before the governor’s ill-advised order,” he said.

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Orange County Executive Officer Frank Kim said Monday that the decision of whether the county itself should submit such a plan rested with the Board of Supervisors, which is expected to discuss the matter Tuesday.

Here’s the latest COVID-19 information for Orange County:

Age breakdown of cases:
0-17 — 57
18-24 — 267
25-34 — 520
35-44 — 420
45-54 — 512
55-64 — 464
65-74 — 286
75-84 — 171
85+ — 120
Unknown — 2

Age breakdown of deaths:
25-34 — 2
35-44 — 3
45-54 — 5
55-64 — 8
65-74 — 9
75-84 — 19
85+ — 11

In our effort to cover this pandemic as thoroughly as possible, we’d like to hear from the loved ones of people who have died from the coronavirus.

Cases by community:
Aliso Viejo — 18
Anaheim — 420
Brea — 21
Buena Park — 93
Costa Mesa — 43
Coto de Caza — 5
Cypress — 44
Dana Point — 22
Fountain Valley — 35
Fullerton — 93
Garden Grove — 135
Huntington Beach — 230
Irvine — 137
La Habra — 56
La Palma — 14
Ladera Ranch — 11
Laguna Beach — 38
Laguna Hills — 22
Laguna Niguel — 32
Laguna Woods — 8
Lake Forest — 31
Los Alamitos — 31
Midway City — 7
Mission Viejo — 47
Newport Beach — 101
Orange — 128
Placentia — 62
Rancho Mission Viejo — 6
Rancho Santa Margarita — 14
San Clemente — 50
San Juan Capistrano — 28
Santa Ana — 405
Seal Beach — 11
Stanton — 28
Trabuco Canyon — 12
Tustin — 46
Villa Park — 5
Westminster — 47
Yorba Linda — 52
Other — 147
Unknown — 84

Note: The “other” category includes unincorporated areas. Daily updates are preliminary and subject to change as the county receives new information.