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California

Santa Cruz County lifts beach closures: ‘People are not willing to be governed’

Beachgoers trek across Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As California reported back-to-back record numbers of coronavirus cases this week amid the continued reopening of the state, Santa Cruz County has decided to fully reopen its beaches, noting that the restrictions were becoming increasingly difficult to enforce.

The county, which has upheld some of the state’s strictest shelter-in-place guidelines longer than many other locales in California, will lift all beach closures at midnight,officials said.

The current order closed beaches from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for all activities except walking across the sand to enter the water, though people could still use the ocean for recreational purposes during that time. Beachgoers also were prohibited from picnicking, sunbathing, sitting or congregating in a stationary setting when the beach was open in the mornings and evenings, typically for walking or running along the shoreline.

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But residents have continued to ignore the rules, officials said.

“It’s become impossible for law enforcement to continue to enforce the closures,” Santa Cruz’s health officer, Dr. Gail Newel, said Thursday. “People are not willing to be governed anymore in that regard.”

The county had intended to keep the beach restrictions in place until after the July 4th weekend, but efforts to enforce the closure have become increasingly more difficult, Newel said.

The county’s current order is set to expire July 6 and will not be renewed, officials said. That means the county’s directives will align fully with state orders. California remains in the latter portion of Stage 3 of its reopening plan, which has allowed for the reopening of gyms, bars, restaurants, nail salons and most other businesses.

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The state is monitoring 15 counties for surges in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, numbers that could force a tightening of reopening plans.

Santa Cruz County’s face covering mandate is still intact, in keeping with the new statewide requirement, and some other public health orders connected to facilities like skilled nursing home will also remain, Newel said. Children over the age of 2 will no longer have the option to wear a face covering, however; that will now be a requirement.

“This may seem stringent and difficult, but it has proven to be manageable in countries around the world,” she said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that those with breathing problems and children under the age of 2 refrain from wearing face masks.

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The county of roughly 273, 000 has recorded three deaths related to COVID-19 and more than 330 infections. According to state data, Tuesday marked its highest daily spike of 23 cases.


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