“The City Council has advised staff to maintain accessibility to the Newport Beach coastline for exercise and recreation, with a greater police and lifeguard presence to more actively enforce social distancing directives,” the city of Newport Beach announced.
In contrast, L.A. County beaches seemed empty during the weekend, as they remain to be closed through May 15 under the county’s safer-at-home order. Though Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery said the city will follow the guidelines from the Department of Beaches and Harbors of L.A. County when assessing when to reopen beaches in the council meeting tomorrow, he believes people should have access to the beach.
Montgomery told Annenberg Media in a phone interview that he thinks people can go to the beach as long as they practice social distancing on the beach, which means staying six feet away from others, only keeping in groups with families and avoiding gatherings.
“People should have the right to go to the beach,” Montgomery said. “If they are staying in groups that are not family, the police will move them along, so [they] get separate.”
The similar practice of social distancing has been placed at other beaches remaining open. Huntington Beach had signs urging visitors to practice social distancing and lifeguards patrolling to spread out the crowd, according to ABC. Officials from Huntington Beach Fire Department said people were following the rules even though “the beach was crowded,” according to ABC.
However, one of the concerns is that many people from L.A. and San Diego counties went to Orange County, as those counties have shut down beaches, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett told the L.A. Times last week. Bartlett added that “especially with the warm weather, I think it’s going to be problematic.”
Orange County reported 122 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, which was the county’s highest daily increase, and 102 on Sunday, according to the county’s official report. As of Tuesday, Orange County has 2,151 COVID-19 cases in total.
Nathan Medina, a USC sophomore and Newport Beach resident, said in a Zoom interview with Annenberg Media that he went to a local beach last Friday and didn’t recall seeing anybody wearing masks. Since people gathered in groups on the beach, Medina said he doesn’t think people practice social distancing, even though people naturally separate themselves on beaches.
“It was very packed [on Friday], but it was not as packed as it was on Saturday,” Medina said.
“I could just tell there were a lot of people visiting, a lot of people who are not [from] Newport,” Medina said. “It’s one of the only beaches still open.”
The petition stated that such mass gatherings are “in direct defiance of the Governor’s Stay-At-Home order.”
“We are ... giving voice to our grave concerns about the imminent risk of mass protests and other unrestricted gatherings at our local beaches and recreational areas, which will exponentially increase everyone’s risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the petition reads.
Christine Catlett, an Orange County resident and local college student, said it’s the responsibility both for the city to temporarily close the beaches and for the people to not go out or even travel for recreational purposes amid the pandemic.
“I think it is irresponsible and selfish considering there is a stay-at-home order in place,” Catlett said in a phone interview with Annenberg Media. “By going out, it endangered other people and … put their health at risk.”
Catlett said she understands the challenges of quarantining at home, but people should not go out until the order is lifted for public health concerns.
“Everyone is tired of quarantine. Everyone wants to go outside and be in nice weather, but now it’s not the time,” Catlett said. “I feel the same way, I wish I could get out, but I’d rather everyone be safe and the spread of the virus not becoming worse.”