Overcrowding could soon make a California beach off limits – Santa Monica Daily Press

DAISY NGUYEN

Associated press

Overcrowding at some California beaches and parks has given local authorities doubts about keeping them open next weekend at the risk of reversing progress made in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and causing a deadly wave of cases.

City of Newport Beach officials called a special meeting on Sunday to consider closing beaches for everyone over the next few weekends or closing roads leading to the shore to keep visitors away.

Over the weekend, a spring heat wave drew tens of thousands of people to the Orange County beach town, where residents compared the size of the crowds to something you typically see on the 4th July. Visitors scoured seaside neighborhoods for parking and packed sidewalks that are inches from people’s front yards, said Diane Dixon, a councilwoman whose district ran along the beach.

“Residents are used to summer visitors. This is not a problem normally. But in a pandemic, that creates a lot of concern, and our older residents are particularly at risk,” Dixon said.

Nearby Huntington Beach also saw large gatherings, despite the closure of beach parking lots and limited metered parking along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Weekend temperatures hit the 80s and 90s across much of the state. While most recreation remains closed under various orders, officials feared that those still open could attract people who ignore the rules to stay apart and seek sun and air after being mostly confined indoors for more than a month.

Some beaches had more restrictions than others depending on the government agency in charge of different segments of the coastline.

San Diego County officials said they would open their beaches starting Monday to all water activities except boating, but left it up to coastal towns to decide when and how they will reopen. their own beaches.

The county’s decision on Friday took the cities by surprise, and they raced over the weekend to come up with a plan. Carlsbad officials have voted to keep city beaches, parks and trails closed until they can consider a phased reopening; meanwhile, Encinitas will reopen a beach only for walking, running and water activities.

Los Angeles City and County beaches, trails and playgrounds have been closed. Officers on horseback patrolled these areas to enforce social distancing rules.

“We won’t let a weekend wipe out a month of progress. While the sun is tempting, we are staying home to save lives,” Garcetti tweeted on Sunday. “The places we love – our beaches, our hiking trails – will still be there when this is over. And by staying home, we ensure our loved ones will be too.

Up north, Pacific Grove police said they had to close scenic Lovers Point Park and Beach at the southern end of Monterey Bay on Saturday due to a lack of social distancing.

Police began closing parking lots in Sausalito on Sunday and will continue to do so on weekends and holidays to deter visitors who flocked to the popular beach town across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco on Saturday.

Overcrowding in a sprawling network of parks east of the city has also prompted the East Bay Regional Park District to urge visitors to help keep parks open by following social distancing standards. A park official said some people gathered in large groups on Saturday, with some refusing to leave closed picnic areas when asked.

In Sacramento, boats were flooding the water at Discovery Park and many families were setting up blankets and chairs by the river.

“We want to continue to remind the community that yes, it’s sunny, but COVID-19 is still here, and we’ve made great progress,” the Sacramento County Sheriff‘s Deputy told KCRA-TV. Zaheem Buksh. “So let’s continue to make that progress by practicing social distancing.”

California has recorded more than 43,500 coronavirus cases and 1,700 deaths, more than half of them in the Los Angeles area, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the number of infections is thought to be much higher as many people have not been tested. Studies suggest that people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Last week, health officials announced that a Santa Clara County woman had died in early February of COVID-19 — weeks before the first known U.S. death from the virus. An autopsy released by the county on Saturday concluded that she suffered a massive heart attack caused by a coronavirus infection, which also spread to her trachea, lungs and intestines.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said more than a month into the crisis, the Bay Area is still facing shortages of personal protective equipment and testing kits. This poses problems that will worsen if the virus reappears, she said.

“We’ve known this crisis has been coming to our country for a long time now, and the thing is, come April, we’re still having the same conversations about the challenges,” Breed said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “I know most cities see the same data. I see that if we do absolutely nothing, it gets worse.”

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that go away in two to three weeks. For some, especially older people and people with existing health conditions, it can lead to more serious illness and death.

Cases continue to grow in California, but at a manageable rate that has not overwhelmed hospitals, health officials said. State and local stay-at-home orders have been cited as successful in slowing the rise in coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths. Recent polls show that Californians overwhelmingly support them.

There have been small protests by people who want to reopen the state, saying their freedom and livelihoods are at stake. Dozens of people gathered in Pacific Beach on Sunday.

Three people were arrested at a Saturday rally in Encinitas, just north of San Diego, and cited for violating health orders, Sheriff Lt. Ricardo Lopez said.

Nguyen reported from Oakland, California.

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