By Miriam Raftery
Photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson at Pacific Beach
April 30, 2020 (San Diego) – After crowds packed Newport Beach in violation of social distancing mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom today ordered Orange County beaches to shut down. But he backed off a broader order that Reuters News Service reported was under consideration, which could have closed all beaches statewide.
The Governor’s more targeted order came after San Diego city and county leaders pointed out that local beachgoers have followed social distancing rules since San Diego beaches reopened on Monday.
San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob represents East County, where temperatures soared above 100 degrees in recent days. In a letter to Governor Newsom, she asked that regional elected officials be given regulatory flexibility. “While you have every right to be concerned about areas of California that have been flooded with beachgoers, not every region experienced the same and shouoldn’t be treated with a broad brush,” she wrote. “The re-opening plan in San Diego County was based on data and executed successfully. We are pleased to say that social distancing, gathering restrictions, sanitation protocols and facial coverings were appropriately maintained. Our residents did everything we asked.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who had also objected to punishing residents who complied with the rules, praised Newsom’s decision, posting, “Great news: the Governor heard us. San Diego beaches WILL STAY OPEN under our plan approved by lifeguards and health officials,” tweeted Faulconer after Newsom’s announcement. “In a time of great crisis we don’t need knee-jerk policies. We need to keep a steady hand. It’s the only way to keep the public’s trust. Keep it up, SD!”
Local beaches are open only to swimming, surfing, kayaking and single-person paddling. On the shorelines, walking and running are allowed, but no stopping, sitting or lying down on the sand. No gatherings are allowed and people must stay at least six feet away from anyone not in their household. Parking lots remain closed, as well as boardwalks, piers and Fiesta Island. Boating remains prohibited, as well as volleyball or other group activities.
Before venturing into the water, however, be aware that a shark attacked a surfer off of Moonlight Beach yesterday.
State and local officials caution that if beachgoers violate rules to protect public health, shutdowns could be reimposed.
Newsom said. “This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts.”