Newport Beach piers are quiet the day before they close as a measure to fight coronavirus

Austin Lim fishes with his son Jacob off the Newport Pier on Tuesday, the day before the pier is to close until further notice as a response to the coronavirus.
(Hillary Davis)

The pod of hunting dolphins that arced in and out of the water just off Newport Beach on Tuesday afternoon provided a display of nature best seen from a surfboard or a pier.

As of Wednesday, the latter will no longer be an option in Newport — at least for the time being.

The city is closing its two ocean piers, along with its beachfront parking lots, joining other coastal cities in escalating shoreline restrictions as part of efforts to prevent gatherings and curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Newport’s move affects the Balboa and Newport piers, the large lots adjoining those piers and the city-owned lot at Corona del Mar State Beach. They will be closed until further notice.

The beaches themselves and the boardwalks and city parks will remain open.

Meanwhile, Huntington Beach closed its pier Tuesday, and Laguna Beach closed all city beaches and beach-adjacent parks Monday evening.

The Huntington Beach Pier closed to the public Tuesday until further notice to prevent close gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Nearby Seal Beach also has closed its pier and all city beaches. And Orange County moved Tuesday to close the parking lots at its beaches, trails and parks.

In an escalated effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the city of Laguna Beach directed staff to close city beaches at 5 p.m. Monday. Meanwhile, Huntington Beach announced that is closing its iconic pier beginning Tuesday until further notice and is shutting down many recreational amenities, though the beaches remain open. Newport Beach also has closed many recreational amenities but kept beaches open. Costa Mesa is closing all city parks.

Newport, also like other cities, previously announced that it was closing several recreational amenities, including public playgrounds, fitness equipment, the dog park, sports courts and fields, and vehicle access to Back Bay Drive, a popular scenic loop popular among motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Though Tuesday afternoons typically aren’t busy at Newport’s piers, this is spring break season, so the piers and beaches normally would be buzzing.

Instead, they hummed mostly with sounds of the sea. The dolphins’ splashing, the gulls’ flapping and the gurgle of water as it hit the pilings were more distinct than any chatter or patter of footsteps.

The sea was calm and at low tide, but few footprints had sunk into the wet sand. Fat gulls nestled into the impressions.

A few people walked or jogged along the Newport Pier. Unless they were in families, they kept their distance.

At McFadden Square at the pier’s base, several popular restaurants set out signs saying they were offering takeout. A few were limiting customers to three at a time.

The Lims were visiting Newport from Orange with a couple of fishing rods as they looked for nibbles and fresh air. They didn’t know it would be the pier’s last day open for a while.

Dad Austin and son Jacob, 12, were among only a handful of anglers at the usually popular fishing site. Mom Young and daughter Jessica, 19, strolled the deck.

“We’ve stayed home a long time,” Austin said.

Jessica, a freshman at UC Irvine, is back home after the university shuttered its dorms. It’s been only a couple of weeks, but it feels longer, she said.

“We’re so stuffy inside.”

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6:15 p.m. March 24, 2020: This article was originally published at 11:52 a.m. and has been updated with new information.