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Cities race to close beaches for Fourth of July holiday as coronavirus surges

Huntington Beach is crowded with beachgoers last month. The city will close the beach for the July 4 holiday.
Beachgoers in Huntington Beach last month. The city will close the beach for the July 4 holiday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As coronavirus cases continue to surge, officials across Southern California have opted to close the vast majority of beaches during the Fourth of July weekend over fears that holiday crowds could make the state’s already critical outbreak even worse.

Los Angeles County was the first to decide to close its shores. Initially, many Orange County communities seemed poised to keep beaches open. But as the holiday drew closer and other business sectors in the region were forced to close amid a troubling surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, several changed their minds.

Orange County officials on Wednesday announced the closure of bars, pubs, breweries and brewpubs that do not offer dine-in meals. Under the county’s order, establishments can serve alcohol only in the same transaction as a meal.

“While we would prefer not to close bars at this time, many of our neighboring counties have closed their bars, and it’s important to take precautions to ensure the safety of the general public,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said.

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Less than two hours after the county issued its new order, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Orange County — along with 18 other counties — must immediately close bars and cease indoor operations at restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and card rooms. The new rules will remain in place for at least three weeks, Newsom said.

As COVID-19 numbers swell and Fourth of July approaches, L.A., Ventura, Santa Barbara county curtail beach activities while most parks, trails stay open

Los Angeles County

L.A. County will close its beaches starting Friday and ban fireworks displays in response to the alarming spike in coronavirus cases.

All public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths “that traverse that sanded portion of the beach” and beach access points will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

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Lifeguard towers will be closed, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Pono Barnes. He added that about 100 lifeguards will be on duty, with 50 patrolling in trucks at any given time.

“It wouldn’t be the scene you’d normally see on a weekend, but we will make sure beach patrons are heeding the advice of the Department of Public Health, as well as providing water coverage and life safety services,” Barnes said.

The ban on fireworks displays also applies to the entire Fourth of July weekend.

Ventura County

Ventura County beaches will be closed for the weekend, county health officials said Tuesday.

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Beaches, beach parking lots and restrooms will close from Friday through Monday to discourage gatherings that could lead to the spread of the virus, officials said.

Orange County

In addition to a handful of city beach closures, a dozen county-operated beaches and beach parking lots will be closed on Saturday and Sunday.

These stretches of coastline include Aliso Beach, Capistrano Beach, Salt Creek Beach, Baby Beach, Bayside Beach, Camel Point Beach, Poche Beach, Strands Beach, Table Rock Beach, Thousand Steps Beach, Treasure Island Beach and West Street Beach.

Newport Beach

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Newport Beach is putting its beaches under hard closure from 10 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Sunday after two lifeguards tested positive for COVID-19 and 23 were placed in quarantine.

Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said his division still has adequate staffing but would be “stretched pretty thin.”

Of the lifeguards in quarantine, one is showing symptoms of COVID-19 and 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 approving the closure. “We just can’t responsibly ask our lifeguards to do more with less. We just can’t.”

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Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach will close its beaches, beach parking lots and pier on Saturday.

“The potential, if we’re the only beach open, to be inundated certainly exists,” City Manager Oliver Chi said at a quickly called council meeting held a few hours after Newport’s. “We don’t want that situation.”

Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize said she received numerous emails from residents wanting the beaches closed for the weekend, a shift in tone from about a month ago.

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She referenced a time when curtains separated smoking and nonsmoking sections on airplanes, “and they closed the curtain like that was really going to keep it away.”

“I kind of think we do that in Orange County,” she said. “L.A. is right next door. How is the wind blowing, for goodness sakes?”

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach officials decided this week to close city-operated beaches entirely from 9 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday. The city had previously canceled its fireworks show in an effort to thin crowds but decided to close the beach to avoid groups of people gathering and possibly spreading the virus.

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“Particularly on the Fourth of July when there were fireworks ... it looked like sardines in a can,” Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said. “There was no space in between people. My concern is that even without the fireworks, there just may be a huge density of people on the beaches.”

Seal Beach

On Wednesday, Seal Beach followed with its own decision to close beaches, beach parking lots, volleyball courts, pier and restrooms. The amenities will reopen Sunday morning, but the city may extend the closure “if it is believed the reopening will be detrimental to the health of the community,” city officials said in a news release.

San Diego County

Oceanside will close beach parking lots from 8 a.m. Friday until 8 a.m. Monday, City Manager Deanna Lorson said Wednesday.

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The decision came just hours after Newsom announced that all state beach parking lots would be closed over the three-day holiday weekend.

In Carlsbad, a city official said Wednesday that the city had no plans to close any lots, and no other San Diego County coastal cities had announced a decision as of late Wednesday. All county beaches remain open for surfing, swimming and other activities, but guidelines remain in place to wear facial coverings when near others and to avoid groups of nonfamily members.

San Diego Union-Tribune writer Phil Diehl contributed to this report. Davis and Nguyen write for Times Community News.


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