Donut worry, be happy — Newport Beach councilman sweetens mornings for one-year anniversary of beach closures

Newport Beach City Councilman Will O'Neill, center, speaks to Newport Elementary School students.
Newport Beach City Councilman Will O’Neill, center, speaks to Newport Elementary School students on their way to class as he gives out doughnuts on the beach in front of Dory Deli on Friday morning.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

This time last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a sweeping beach closure order that sent ripples throughout coastal Orange County cities and incited the fury of locals already frustrated with the stay-at-home order issued just a month previous.

That wasn’t still the case Friday morning, least of all in Newport Beach, where Councilman Will O’Neill — acting in his capacity only as a resident, not on behalf of the city — was handing out about 12 dozen doughnuts that he bought from Seaside Donuts.

State and local beaches have since reopened. After a rough winter, the county is now in the orange tier and is close to qualifying for the next and final tier in the state’s reopening blueprint. Moreover, the state is preparing for a full reopening this June 15.

Messages left on doughnut boxes thanking first responders as free doughnuts were given out on Friday morning.
Messages left on doughnut boxes thanking first responders as free doughnuts were given out on Friday morning given out by Councilman Will O’Neill to mark the one-year anniversary of when Gov. Gavin Newsom shutdown the beaches in Newport Beach due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

O’Neill said he considered Friday an opportunity to spin what was a negative incident into something that was positive because “we have to find positives everywhere we can these days.”

“Last year, having our beaches closed was a large negative. It did seem targeted and against the data and science that was showing large, open spaces outdoors was safer than indoor and closed spaces,” said O’Neill in an interview Friday.

He said the doughnut giveaway was a way to show support to local businesses and remind people to shop locally.

“There was a lot of anger and frustration that came out of [the beach closures], but if what we can do with that is remember that decision while also being on an open beach and [in] the company of people who were there when it happened last year, then at least we’re coming together as a community,” said O’Neill. “We want to turn a negative into as much of a positive as we can.”

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