Listen, Southern Californians, we know you love the beach. We know that you like to hike, bike and get out in the sun, especially after a rainy week of being cooped up at home.
But, c’mon. What happened this past weekend was entirely unacceptable. Despite pleas to stay home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, thousands of you went out anyway, crowding popular hiking trails and clustering on beaches. Some of you may have been trying to maintain your 6-foot-separation, but too many of you didn’t bother: You played basketball and soccer at local parks. You jammed boardwalks and bike paths, treating “social distancing” as a lifestyle choice, not a lifesaving imperative.
In response, local governments did the responsible thing: They shut down or restricted access to some of Southern California’s most beloved public assets.
On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city would close beach parking lots to stem the flow of beach visitors. So did Santa Monica and other coastal cities. Garcetti also closed sports and recreation facilities at parks. The city-operated golf courses and tennis courts, which had been allowed to keep operating under social distancing and cleaning protocols, were also shuttered.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which manages 70 parks, announced the closure of all of them. That includes some of the region’s most popular hiking trails, including those at Fryman Canyon Park and the Temescal Gateway Park. Los Angeles County also put its hiking trails off limits.
The rapid closure of so many public spaces after one weekend might cause some whiplash. Just last week, public health officials said it was OK for residents to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Strolling, hiking and biking would be fine, they said, as long as people stayed 6 feet away from one another.
But in a county of 10 million people, it can get pretty crowded when lots of people all decide to go to the same popular spots at the same time. And, frankly, too many people being irresponsible is a sure-fire way to hasten the spread of the novel coronavirus and increase the death toll. As Garcetti noted bluntly: If people fail to keep their distance, “more people will die.”
It should be abundantly clear by now that the course this disease will take — whether we will face a staggering number of untimely deaths or whether we will successfully flatten the curve and slow the infections — depends on the choices we ourselves make about our behavior in coming days and weeks.
Stay home. Or walk around your neighborhood and leave plenty of space between others. The beach will still be there when the coronavirus is contained. But if society isn’t willing to sacrifice a little now, you or your friends or your parents may not be alive to enjoy it.