Thousands of people in California continue to enjoy the beach as the state endured a heatwave — despite the state’s stay-at-home orders meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Amid the global pandemic that’s killed more than 1,600 people in the Golden State, an estimated 40,000 people hung out at Newport Beach and thousands of others spent time at Huntington Beach on Friday.
Dozens of areas of Southern California saw temperatures of 90 degrees or higher before noon, and heat advisories went into effect from the Central Coast south through Los Angeles County and down through interior areas to the southern U.S. border with Mexico.
“We’re seeing a huge increase in crowds that we would normally see out here in the middle of the summer,” Brian O’Rourke, the lifeguarding battalion chief, told KTTV.
Newport Beach is located in Orange County — where beaches have not been closed by local officials, but restrictions have been put in place to keep people safe.
Lifeguards believe many of those getting some sunshine traveled from Los Angeles and San Diego, both counties in which beaches have been closed.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, pleaded to those traveling around for some beach time: “We don’t need you to go out and get infected in another county and then bring yourself, infected, back here to L.A. County.”
KTTV reports many people at the beach were not practicing social distancing and were not wearing masks.
Lifeguards in Newport Beach are preparing to staff up for the weekend as they continue to see large crowds.
A city spokesperson told The Ocean County Register: “They are definitely preparing for bigger crowds, having to go out and talking to people if they don’t seem to be following the rules, approaching people who seem like they are in bigger groups than they should be.”
All of California has been under a stay-at-home order since March 19, after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency because of the virus on March 4.
The order remains in place “until further notice.”
Beaches remain under local jurisdictions, but state officials have closed state parks, including San Clemente State Beach and Calafia State Beach.
Lisa Mangat, director of California State Parks, told the OCR: “With the warm weather, it’s only natural people want to make use of parks and beaches, but we are encouraging them to stay home.”
“We want to make sure people know that many of our parks and beaches are closed or have very limited access to make sure we’re all abiding and practicing physical distancing.”
“As the governor said, our goal is to make sure people are safe, and that we’re mitigating the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.”
Newsom said last week it’d be “unrealistic” to think California could go back to what many considered a “normal” way of life before the pandemic — and said he fears the worst might not be over.
“If we all pull back, we could see a second wave that makes this pale in comparison,” the Democratic governor said.
“I can’t say that. Honestly, that’s determined by the act of 40 million Californians stepping in, continuing to meet this moment.”
Newsom said that while ICU numbers were slowing down, the state is “not seeing yet the significant decline that we need to see ultimately to toggle back.”
As of Saturday morning, more than 41,000 people in California have tested positive for the virus.