Virus Spiking: All County Beaches Closed. Officials Warn Against Backyard Gatherings

Fourth of July Dangers: Tourists and Locals told to keep off beaches, wear masks, only gather and eat with household members.

A group of people enjoy the warm weather on Leadbetter Beach. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

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Though Santa Barbara County is closing its beaches for the Fourth of July weekend, you can still grab your surfboard and catch a few waves — just don’t sit, stand, lie down, sunbathe, or, well, celebrate the holiday on the beach.

“July Fourth is normally a time of celebration with family and friends,” Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said. “And beach time is a favorite gathering place for many families… But during this weekend, I implore every community member to stay close to home and do your best to avoid closed spaces, crowds, and close contact with those who live outside your home.”

The closure comes in the wake of an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. She reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, and 374 active cases across the county overall. Of all active cases, 64 are hospitalized, 20 of whom are in an intensive care unit. Do-Reynoso said roughly 55 percent of cases are transmitted through person-to-person spread; one percent are transmitted by travel outside the county; and 44 percent are community acquired. 

The beach ban lasts from 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 3, to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 5. No members of the public are permitted on the beaches during the closure period except to go into the ocean for exercise like swimming or water sports. Sheriff’s Office deputies will be out in force over the weekend to patrol the beaches and nearby trail heads. Deputies will use education as the first mode of enforcement, but if that fails, the deputies may issue fines to those on the beach.

In addition to the increase in cases, County Public Health also issued the order because Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties all closed their beaches for the weekend — making Santa Barbara’s beaches an even more appealing tourist destination than it already is. The potential for tourists to flood the beaches when positive cases are already shooting up by the day sealed the decision.

Beaches aren’t the only location that county officials are worried about this weekend, though. 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said that emerging data increasingly points toward family gatherings as a major way the virus is being spread. Backyard barbecues, a common Fourth of July get-together, poses extreme risk.

“One of the invisible but very potent threats to transmission of the virus is, unfortunately, family gatherings,” Hart said. “While it is perfectly safe for immediate family members who live together to recreate and socialize together, it is not safe to extend that contact to family members and friends who don’t live together. Many people may be planning backyard Fourth of July gatherings this weekend, but please cancel those plans or move them to an online format.

“The most patriotic way to celebrate Independence Day this year is to postpone celebrations with non-family members.”

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