SANTA CRUZ (KPIX) – In an effort to prevent beach overcrowding which could spread the coronavirus, Santa Cruz County is closing its beaches between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day.

It’s a policy, Sheriff Jim Hart says, that is designed to discourage day trips to the beach in violation of the California’s stay-at-home order.

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“There were a lot of community members concerned that there were too many people coming to our beaches and possibly bringing the virus into our community,” Sheriff Hart said on a conference call with reporters Friday.

Governor Gavin Newsom closed beaches in Orange County in response to overcrowding, but stopped short of issuing a statewide ban.

“I think we should be compassionate, reasonable and fair about beach access,” says Nathan Martisius, a surfer who says there should be a middle path between a total lockdown and unlimited access to coastal areas during the pandemic.

“People are suffering and they don’t get to get out a lot. Maybe, they’re at the breaking point and need to get down there and get in the water. So, I think we should work together,” he said.

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But public health officials worry about the impact on the spread of the virus if large numbers of people break quarantine, socialize on a beach and then return to their respective communities.

“I feel like it’s very easy to socially distance at the beach. I wouldn’t show up at a beach where people were six feet apart and parallel park my blanket in between that even pre-coronavirus,” says Ali Miller, a Modesto resident.

Miller says she felt cooped up after several weeks of sheltering in place and decided to bring her daughter to the coast.

“I feel like you should be allowed outside of your area as long as you keep social distancing rules,” says Claire Miller.

The Sheriff’s Office says they will send teams in off-road vehicles to patrol the beach, issuing either warnings or tickets to beachgoers who are in violation of the stay-at-home order.

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There were certain portions of the coast that were just a mess last week,” Sheriff Hart said. “The health officer was very concerned about it.”