SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — After rumors that he would be issuing an order closing all beaches and state parks in California, on Thursday Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he was instead ordering the temporary closure of all Orange County beaches beginning Friday.
The governor announced a “hard closure” of all state and local beaches in Orange County during his Thursday update on the state’s response to the coronavirus.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
“We’re gonna do a hard close in that part of the state, just in the Orange County area,” Newsom said.
Newsom called the focused closure a “temporary pause.” CBS News on Wednesday had obtained a memo which seemed to indicate that Newsom could order the closure of all beaches and state parks across California. However, that was not the case.
“Specific issues on some of those [Orange County] beaches have raised alarm bells,” Newsom said. “People that are congregating there that weren’t practicing physical distancing that may go back to their community outside of O.C. and may not even though that they contracted the disease.”
On Thursday, Newsom said he never saw the memo that the state Police Chiefs Association sent to chiefs.
“That wasn’t my memo,” explained Newsom. He also said he couldn’t explain why chiefs thought he was on the verge of ordering all state beaches and parks closed, and not just Orange County.
Some Southern California officials contended that what they had heard from Newsom’s administration Wednesday evening was that the closure would apply to all beaches in the state, but that they received an update just before noon that the order would focus on Orange County.
The governor also praised the greater Bay Area as well as various counties throughout the state, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Mendocino and Sonoma, for doing “all the right things” and following state and local guidelines to protect public health.
What may be confusing for some beach goers is that certain counties have more specific rules about partial closures.
Beach parking lots are closed throughout the state, but getting some exercise while keeping a safe distance is still allowed at most beaches including in Pacifica.
“We have a four year old and this is where we go. He calls it the new playground,” said Pacifica resident Inna Kuchmenico-Santana.
Weekend surges of visitors also led to Santa Cruz County officials to announce on Wednesday they would be closing their beaches between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. There will be one exception — visitors will be allowed to cross the sand to surf.
“Despite warnings against traveling to Santa Cruz County for beach access and against congregating on beaches, local law enforcement spent the weekend responding to numerous issues all along our coastline,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said in a prepared release. “Unfortunately, these actions are necessary to protect the health and welfare of our most vulnerable residents. The Sheriff’s Office, the police departments and State Parks will do everything we can to support the Health Officer and enforce her revised order.”
According to Hart’s office, deputies issued 210 citations related to beach attendance from Friday morning to Sunday. Most were parking and alcohol related, but the citations included 23 violations of the shelter-in-place order.
Medical experts say going to the beach is not without risk. The concern isn’t contracting the virus in open spaces.
“I think that’s less risky. It’s more about someone coming close to you and not being able to control your environment because of the behavior of others,” said UCSF Professor of Epidemiology Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.
Ocean Beach in San Francisco will stay open as will beaches in most Bay Area counties.
The National Park Service is even increasing access to federally maintained beaches including Golden Gate National Recreation Area following guidance from the White House and the CDC.
“I’m staying six feet apart. I was worried they were going to close,” said Pacifica resident Julie Zinnbauer.
For beach goers, the Governor’s decision not to close all state beaches is a big relief.
“So we get to be outside and get some of his energy out and our energy out,” said Kuchmenico-Santana.
Local counties can implement stricter guidelines about what can be brought to the beach and what’s not allowed, such as the specific orders issued in Santa Cruz.
Officials advise checking county websites for detailed rules as updates are being made.
The Governor also said that officials had updated the information provided on the state’s coronavirus website regarding outdoor exercise, specifically adding details on allowable sports and activities.
“About two dozen additions were made on that site..as it relates to hiking — again, with a modification of physical distancing and social distancing — it is allowed and has been allowed. We wanted to clarify the hiking protocols,” said Newsom. “There have been a lot of conversations around the state about things like golf and whether or not that’s appropriate. The Bay Area put out some additional guidance on that. We want to clarify where the state stands and we have.”
Newsom first expressed his ire over the surge to beaches on Monday, warning Californians who have been under strict local and statewide stay at home orders since mid-March that — “This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts.”
“We have to manage risks. We have to manage and augment our behavior,” said Newsom Monday. “And that’s why I cannot impress upon you more to those Californians watching that we can’t see the images like we saw, particularly on Saturday, in Newport Beach and elsewhere in the state of California.”
The Governor commended the other parts of the state where residents obeyed by the stay-at-home order and park closures and encouraged people to be patient, saying “we are just a few weeks away, not months away, from making meaningful and measurable changes” to the shelter order and social distancing restrictions.
“The only thing that will set us back is our behavior,” Newsom said.
During the weekend surge to the San Mateo coastline, sheriff’s deputies handed out more than 1,000 citations and warnings for violations of the county’s stay-at-home order.
While being heralded by Newsom for clamping down on the homebound residents exodus to the coast, the numbers show that it wasn’t without a great deal of effort in San Mateo County.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office issued hundreds of verbal and written warnings and parking tickets in an aggressive campaign to prevent county beaches from becoming overcrowded during the emergency stay-at-home order.
“We have one of the most restrictive health orders in the entire Bay Area. And one of the restrictions is you have to live within five miles in order to recreate. So, that’s what we’re recommending,” says Capt. Saul Lopez.
According to the statistics released Tuesday, deputies handed out 347 parking citations and 568 verbal warnings along coast on Saturday and Sunday.
Deputies also handed out 47 written warnings in Half Moon Bay, 83 on the north coast and 61 on the south coast. There were only 3 written warnings handed out in areas away from the coast.
The Cabrillo Highway and nearby surface streets have been signed by Caltrans, San Mateo County Roads and the town of Half Moon Bay with extensive “No Parking” signs under the current stay at home order from Lantos Tunnel to the Santa Cruz County line.
“Nonetheless, there continues to be extensive disregard for the signs,” the sheriff department said.
Eric Nuñez, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, released the memo Newsom had sent to law enforcement on Thursday evening to forewarn local officials of his announcement, likely during his Thursday news conference.
In Newport Beach, some 80,000 visitors hit the beach over the weekend, although lifeguards said most people exercised social distancing. With criticism swirling, the Newport Beach City Council met Tuesday and rejected a proposal to close the beaches for the next three weekends.
Nearby Laguna Beach approved a limited reopening. Beaches across San Diego County reopened Monday, with a few exceptions.
Six San Francisco Bay Area counties that imposed the first broad stay-at-home orders in California because of the coronavirus loosened them — slightly — for the first time Wednesday, joining a growing list of local governments that are cracking the door to a less-restrictive life.
The announcement was part of a list of modified orders making it difficult to keep up with what is allowed and what is not. Tennis will be OK in Sacramento starting Friday, but not in San Francisco, where public health officials say it’s still not safe for people to share a ball.
Compounding the confusion: Some elements of the revised orders won’t take effect because they conflict with the statewide stay-at-home order, which is still in place.
“I want to remind everyone that we must all abide by all the local health orders and the state health orders. That means whichever is stricter, in some cases that is the state order,” Santa Clara County legal counsel James Williams said. “It is important that we adhere to the stricter of both.”
The Bay Area order allows for landscaping, construction and other outdoor businesses, such as flea markets and nurseries, so long as social distancing is maintained. And in what could be a critical addition for many parents, it specifies that summer camps are allowed, but only for children of people allowed to work under the state order. The children must remain in groups of 12 or fewer and with the same supervisor and may not mingle with kids outside their group.
It’s not clear if that element complies with the state order. When asked about it Wednesday, Newsom said it was “a point of clarification” his administration will be discussing with local officials.
Kenny Choi contributed to this story.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.