Labor Day weekend is here: what Orange County officials want you to know

A large maze is carved into the sand near the Newport Beach Pier on Aug. 23.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

As the last of the summer holidays arrives, Orange County officials expressed their public safety concerns as residents look to get the most out of their Labor Day weekend.

In a briefing on the county’s outlook regarding COVID-19 on Tuesday, Orange County deputy health officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong urged residents to keep their Labor Day activities outdoors.

“Go to the beach, where you can really spread out and there’s good ventilation there,” Chinsio-Kwong told reporters in the Zoom meeting.

She also advocated for residents to pick up quality face coverings, such as surgical masks, if their weekend get-togethers would find them indoors.

“We know how important socialization is,” Chinsio-Kwong added. “It really helps with our mental health, so it’s really good to socialize, but safely.”

Mike Halphide, assistant chief of lifeguard operations in Newport Beach, said larger-than-usual crowds are not necessarily expected at the beaches, but he encouraged prospective beachgoers to use lifeguards as a resource just the same.

“We expect that it will be below average for the holiday weekend, but a couple [of] things that we just always ask people is to try to make sure they know the conditions where they are because even if the surf is small, we have rescues and injuries in those conditions,” Halphide said.

“The best thing that people can do is come and check with a lifeguard. The person sitting in the tower or the truck, he or she is an expert at not only ocean safety, but they work that location, and they’re really educated on the nuances of it.”

In addition to the beach, hiking trails could be another destination for those looking to get out and about.

With respect to local hiking trails, temperatures are expected to sit in the mid-80s in Laguna Beach, and the heat could touch the low-90s in Irvine, this weekend.

“We are expecting an increase in temperatures this weekend, and this is not the time to overexert yourself,” Laguna Beach Fire Chief Mike Garcia said via email.

“Know your limits and lower your hiking goals by reducing distance. Enjoy your time outside but be overly cautious of the effects of the heat and bring more water than you think you need. ”

Garcia also wanted to remind the public that Laguna Beach is a smoke-free city. The community has also taken steps to ban single-use plastics, so such food-ware items are prohibited at city beaches, parks and trails.

The Fountain Valley Police Department has indicated it will have additional personnel in the field looking for drivers operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol throughout the three-day weekend.

Over the Labor Day holiday period in 2019, 45 people died in vehicle crashes across the state, Fountain Valley police shared in a news release. There were also more than 1,000 arrests made by the California Highway Patrol for DUIs during Labor Day weekend enforcement that year.

“Driving impaired is risky and puts yourself and others around you in serious danger,” Fountain Valley police Lt. Kham Vang said in a statement. “If you are taking a road trip over the next few weeks, make good choices and drive like your closest friends and family are in the cars around you.”

Halphide said that lifeguards have a shared interest in monitoring alcohol consumption.

“People who drown, many of them were drinking alcohol first,” Halphide said. “It lessens their inhibitions, [and] it lessens their ability to cope if they find themselves in trouble.

“Our lifeguards, when they’re out on patrol, if they come across somebody who is drinking, as lifeguards, we approach it from an educational perspective, explaining one, it’s not allowed, [and] two, it’s dangerous if you’re going to go drive or swim.”

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