May is one of the finest times of year in California, but Governor Gavin Newsom is scolding Southern California in particular for overcrowding its beaches — particularly in Orange County — last weekend. And word went out that he was planning to order all state and local beaches closed down the entire coast.
The move seemed primarily directed at scofflaws flouting social distancing orders in Ventura and Orange counties. During a Monday press conference, Newsom called out Newport Beach in particular, and images of crowds that reportedly numbered around 40,000 gathered there last weekend. "Those images," Newsom said, "are an example of what not to see, people, what not to do if we're going to make meaningful progress."
Newsom was expected to issue a broad closure order for all beaches and state parks during his Thursday pandemic address, but just after noon he clarified that it was never his intention to close beaches across the entire state.
During his news conference, Newsom said Orange County had been "on our list" for concerns with beach crowding, and he ordered the county's to "hard close" all beaches. The move he said, per the Chronicle, was for the "same reason we are not reopening arenas with tens of thousands of people — we don’t want to have beaches with tens of thousands of people either."
Multiple outlets including the Chronicle reported on Newsom's plan to close all state beaches and parks, but Newsom says that was never the case. The misunderstanding of the new order seems to stem from a memo sent by the California Police Chiefs Association Wednesday night which stated that all beaches, regardless of jurisdiction, should be closed. "After the well-publicized media coverage of overcrowded beaches this past weekend, in violation of Governor Newsom's Shelter in Place Order, the Governor will be announcing tomorrow that ALL beaches and all state parks in California will be closed, effective Friday, May 1st," the memo reads.
BREAKING: A source has provided me with this bulletin that will be sent out to all California police chiefs notifying them that tomorrow, Governor Newsom will announce the closure of ALL beaches and state parks effective May 1st in response to recent beach crowds in OC . @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/RG53HhmySf— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) April 30, 2020
And this came just a day after Newport Beach city authorities chose not to close its beach or impose new restrictions, as NPR reports.
By contrast, when revised sheltering orders went out for six Bay Area counties on Wednesday, "sunbathing" was specifically mentioned as something that would now be condoned, in city parks at least. "Examples of permissible outdoor activities include sunbathing, hiking, golf, skateboarding, and fishing," reads San Francisco's order.
It would seem that a beach as spacious as Ocean Beach would allow for adequate social distancing unless the whole city showed up there at once. And the Golden Gate National Recreation Area website, run by the National Park Service, has a notice now that says, "Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities, we are increasing access and services in a phased approach across all units of the National Park System. Before visiting a park, please check the park website to determine its operating status."
And according to the GGNRA website, only the Ocean Beach fire pits are closed, as well as the parking lots at Baker Beach and Fort Funston.
*This post has been updated throughout to reflect Newsom's latest comments about Orange County.