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Throngs of people, many without masks, pack Venice Beach over Memorial Day weekend

People fill the boardwalk in Venice Beach during the first day of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
(AFP )

Californians cooped up for months amid stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus outbreak crowded beaches, parks and trails over the Memorial Day weekend, pushing the limits of social distancing.

In Los Angeles County, where more than 46,000 coronavirus infections have been reported and more than 2,100 COVID-19 deaths have been tallied, health officials worried the holiday weekend would be a big test.

Bike paths and beach parking lots reopened, joining trails, parks and golf courses as places to enjoy the sun-soaked weather.

Though some areas seemed problem-free, others were quickly overrun. Crowds packed the Venice Beach boardwalk, and very few people were seen wearing masks in images shared on social media.

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Officials said a failure to follow rules, including the prohibition of sunbathing at Venice Beach and other public health violations, has been an ongoing problem.

“The issues this weekend validate our decision to keep our county parking lots at Venice Beach closed,” said Nicole Mooradian, L.A. County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors public information officer.

As restrictions aimed to stem the spread of COVID-19 are eased across California, authorities continue to warn that practices such as mask-wearing and social distancing are the best defense against a “second wave” of infections. The state is nearing 100,000 coronavirus infections and is approaching 4,000 related deaths.

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Elsewhere in Southern California, crowds forced the closure of a popular hiking destination.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation closed Eaton Canyon in Pasadena on Sunday after throngs of hikers descended on the area.

Officials initially said the area would be shuttered for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend “due to overwhelming crowds that were not following the COVID-19 public health requirements.” But on Tuesday, officials extended the order for the rest of the month.

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Warm conditions this week are expected to lure more people outdoors, particularly to the shore.

During the three-day holiday, the Venice Beach boardwalk mirrored similar scenes in other beach towns, including Ocean City, Md., and Gulf Shores, Ala.

The Los Angeles Police Department did not have information about whether citations were issued in Venice. The Department of Beaches and Harbors doesn’t have the authority to write tickets.

It’s too early to tell whether beachgoers will see any changes after such a busy weekend, Mooradian said. For now, there have been no changes to the newly lifted restrictions.

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“We’re still assessing what worked and what didn’t over the holiday weekend,” she said.


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