On Thursday afternoon, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued orders closing beaches in Orange County after tens of thousands flooded the beaches during last week’s heatwave, raising concerns that such gatherings could result in the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The order was much narrower than anticipated, and came after widespread reports that the governor would move to close all of California’s beaches in an announcement on Thursday.
In a press conference, Newsom denied that he ever saw a memo circulated among police chiefs around the state telling them to prepare plans for beach closures. “We just want to focus on where there’s a problem … in a smart, strategic way,” Newsom said. “We don’t want to be heavy-handed about these things.” The governor also suggested that, with proper guidelines in place to ensure social distancing, beaches in Orange County could open up again soon.
For the time being, then, Santa Barbara’s beaches remain open, although officials are urging residents to be smart and exercise responsible decision-making. Last week, county authorities warned that parking lots near beaches and trailheads could be closed if residents couldn’t stick to social-distancing rules.
While a trip to the beach or out for a hike can certainly improve your mental health, doing so should be balanced with the need to avoid large congregations of people and practice social distancing, say health officials.
At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor. Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.