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Thursday, April 30, 2020
As Some States Reopen, Newsom Closes California Beaches
A number of states around the country are reopening or preparing to do so, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the state’s beaches and state parks closed. The move was prompted by pictures from Orange County that showed Newport Beach crowded with tens of thousands of beachgoers over the weekend.
Earlier this week, the Newport Beach council considered a measure to close the beach for the next three weekends but decided against the move. Instead, the body decided to deploy more police officers and lifeguards to enforce social distancing.
The large weekend crowds at Newport Beach were prompted both by a heatwave in SoCal as well as numerous local closures at other beaches notes the Orange County Register. As one of the only open beaches in the area, people from around the area were drawn to Newport.
Nearby Laguna Beach, which had closed its beaches last month, voted to reopen for “active use only” on Tuesday. Beachgoers could run or swim if they maintained six-foot separation. Sitting or laying on the beach would not be permitted.
This morning, Gov. Newsom is ordering all state parks and beaches closed effective May 1 to address an issue that he admits is not widespread.
“About 100 beaches, easily defined 100 beaches, and there were five where we had some particular challenges,” Newsom said, per California’s ABC 7. Overwhelming majority there were no major issues. Quite frankly no issues.”
A memo sent by the California Chiefs Association to law enforcement agencies said that the beach scenes represented a “violation of Governor Newsom’s Shelter in Place Order,” reported NBC Los Angeles. The memo was an advance warning of the closures intended to allow law enforcement time to prepare.
Orange County, located near Los Angeles, ranks fourth in the state for Coronavirus cases. Statistics from the California Department of Public Health show that COVID-19 cases in Orange County are currently at an all-time high. The county is adjacent to Los Angeles County which has been an epicenter of Coronavirus cases in California. The Los Angeles Times today reported the largest one-day increase in new cases in LA County since testing began.
IHME models for California show that the state has already reached peak deaths (on April 22) and resource use (on April 19). Although the state seems to be on the backside of the curves, it still has high numbers of both new cases and deaths.
Many will scoff at Newsom’s action, but, given California’s position near the peak of the Coronavirus curves, the closures make sense. This is especially true for Newport Beach which would draw heavy traffic from Los Angeles. With the state and the city near the peak, it is likely that there are large numbers of people who are infected but don’t know it. Those people could infect others on trips to the beach and add fuel the outbreak in the LA basin.
The nature of the pandemic is that different states and cities will see peaks at different times. The nature of federalism is that state and local authorities should be able to deal with the outbreak on their own schedules.
There was no indication of how long the order would remain in effect, but Newsom tweeted that reopening would “be guided by science and public health.”
The true numbers are probably much worse. Excess US deaths in the first month of the pandemic doubled the official Coronavirus death toll. Many of these deaths were likely due to the virus but were not counted to the lack of testing.
The history of the Coronavirus pandemic has not yet been written but varying strategies by different states and metro areas will provide a rich body of data for researchers. For the full picture, however, we will have to wait until the virus runs its course.