SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (CBS SF) — While Santa Cruz County health officials on Thursday reported a significant jump in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last week, the county will reopen beaches due to resistance from the public in adhering to the restrictions in place.

County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newell said the video press conference on Thursday morning was being held due to several “interesting developments” in the county’s coronavirus response that merited the conference.

Dr. Newell reported that Santa Cruz County had an alarming spike in cases with 28 new cases confirmed over the weekend.

“This is by far the greatest increase we’ve had to date in COVID-19 in our county,” Dr. Newell said, noting that the department had to redesign the epidemiologic graph on the county’s COVID-19 website.

She said that between reopening and recent political protests, the spike in cases was something that was expected. The county has confirmed a total of 337 known cases of COVID-19 with 106 active known cases, up from around 40 cases only two weeks ago.

The county also reported its third death associated with the coronavirus. The person who died was a male in his mid 90s in hospice care with several underlying health conditions, but COVID-19 contributed to his death on June 15th. Officials are investigating the mode of spread.

Dr. Newell also announced that on midnight Thursday night into Friday morning, beach restrictions in Santa Cruz County would be lifted.

“We had hoped to continue the beach closure until after the Fourth of July weekend, but it’s become impossible for law enforcement to continue to enforce that closure,” Dr. Newell explained. “People are not willing to be governed anymore in that regard.”

The change means people will be allowed to sit on the beach and there will no longer be limits on when people can be there.  State parks and city beaches may still have beach restrictions in place.

Dr. Newel said the update to the new health orders extend through July 6th, but noted that after that date, the county would be following state COVID-19 guidance and would not issue a new county-specific order.

She noted that face covering and other specific orders will still be in effect. One of the changes in the new order is that children over the age of 2 will be required to wear face coverings, which had previously been optional.

More information on the changes to the county’s health orders will be available on the Santa Cruz County Health website.

The full video of the Thursday press conference is available at the County Santa Cruz Facebook page.

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