California Gov. Gavin Newsom to close Orange County beaches amid coronavirus outbreak

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Cardiff State Beach remains closed during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Encinitas, California, U.S. April 30, 2020.

Mike Blake | Reuters

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to close state and local beaches in Orange County, calling the images of huge crowds that occupied the beaches over the weekend “disturbing.” 

“Orange County has been on our list of health concern and they’ve done a wonderful job down there, I just think we can tighten that up a little bit. So we’re going to have a temporary pause down there,” Newsom said at a press conference on Thursday. 

Newsom said beaches in the southern part of California, including those in Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, have raised alarm bells, including images of people who were congregating there and not following physical distancing guidelines. He said the state wants to work closely with local officials, and if they can create better guidelines, the beaches can “reopen very very quickly.” 

“My job as governor is to keep you safe, and when our health folks tell me they can’t promise that if we promote another weekend like we had then I have to make this adjustment,” Newsom said. 

An additional 95 people died from Covid-19 on Wednesday, he said. The state saw a 5.2% increase in confirmed cases since yesterday for a total of 48,917. 

“Why undo all the great progress? Let’s move this state forward together,” Newsom said.

Previous reports before Newsom’s order indicated he planned to close all of the state’s beaches, which drew widespread criticism from some state officials. When asked what changed his mind on closing all state beaches, Newsom said that they “never did and this is exactly the conversations we were having.” 

Officials from other parts of California have spoken out against a blanket beach ban in California.

Sheriff William Honsal, who oversees Homboldt County in the northern part of the state, said that he strongly opposes the order and indicated in a tweet that he would not enforce it. 

“If an order is issued that I believe violates our constitutional rights, I will not enforce it,” the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office tweeted on Thursday. 

Newsom said his office has received letters regarding the beach closures but said that his decision is guided on what local health officials think is appropriate and what’s not.

“When you pull back too quickly you literally put peoples’ lives at risk. People are literally dying because of decisions that were done without a real frame of focus on public health first,” Newsom said. “That’s what ultimately guide our decisions.” 

On Monday, Newsom criticized some southern Califonria beachgoers who didn’t follow proper social distancing guidelines or wore face coverings, NBC News reported. 

Thousands of beach-goers enjoy a warm, sunny day at the beach amid state-mandated stay-at-home and social distancing mandate to stave off the coronavirus pandemic in Huntington Beach, CA, on April 25, 2020.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

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