Newport to close beaches for July 4 after lifeguard coronavirus infections; Huntington follows suit

A Newport Beach lifeguard keeps an eye on beachgoers Wednesday.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Newport Beach is putting its beaches under a hard closure on the Fourth of July after two lifeguards tested positive for COVID-19.

And with such a large neighbor shutting down, Huntington Beach will follow suit.

Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said the lifeguard division has adequate staffing to cover for the lifeguards who are out of commission, but the remaining guards would be “stretched pretty thin.” Newport’s beaches will be shut from 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered tougher restrictions on indoor activities for most of the state, marking a major step backward in the reopening and an attempt to slow an alarming rise of the coronavirus in 19 counties.

Twenty-three colleagues are in quarantine. One of them is showing symptoms but hasn’t been tested yet.


“I cannot in good conscience add more onto our lifeguards,” Mayor Will O’Neill said at an emergency City Council meeting Wednesday where the closure was approved. “We just can’t responsibly ask our lifeguards to do more with less. We just can’t.”

The closure adds Newport Beach to Los Angeles County, Ventura County and the cities of Laguna Beach and Seal Beach in locking down beaches for the weekend in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The state has closed its beach parking lots.

Laguna Beach opts to close city beaches, Huntington Beach to keep them open, as Newport Beach officials wait to decide if they will follow Los Angeles County’s lead in shutting down for the Fourth of July weekend because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

Newport officials had earlier planned to go ahead with full access for the traditionally peak weekend, expecting an influx beyond even the typical Fourth of July crush as displaced L.A. beachgoers look for the next-closest sand and surf. They expected to have about 60 staffers on duty, with the flexibility to call in reinforcements if the turnout demanded it.

Earlier Tuesday, the county closed bars and the state closed indoor restaurant dining in Orange County and 18 other counties on the state watch list after they posted concerning metrics indicating an accelerated COVID-19 spread.

The oceanfront, especially on Balboa Peninsula, is packed with bars, pubs and eateries. Many customers would be able to order takeout but would potentially be pushed to the adjacent sand to wait or eat, crowding the beach even more.

“In the sailing, boating world you become really aware of the tides, and they seem to always be running with you or against you. It’s really important to understand which way the tides are going,” Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery said. “The tide’s definitely running against us on this.”

Davis writes for Times Community News.


9:32 p.m. July 1, 2020: Updates with Huntington Beach also shutting down beaches, more information.