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By Shawn Raymundo and Lillian Boyd

A week after San Clemente’s beaches were reopened to allow citizens to surf and exercise, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, April 30, issued a new order, directing all of Orange County’s beaches to close temporarily.

During his daily press briefing Thursday, Newsom said the order is targeting only Orange County’s beaches, and is “very focused” while “trying to solve a health problem; trying to mitigate one that can grow into the future.”

“We’re going to have a temporary pause on the beaches down there,” he said, emphasizing it included state and local beaches. 

The governor’s order comes as a direct response to the thousands of people who flocked to some of Orange County’s beaches last weekend when a heat wave hit Southern California.

News photos of the large crowds visibly defying the state’s social distancing guidelines this past weekend, notably in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, gained widespread media attention and drew the ire of the governor.

In a press conference on Monday, April 27, Newsom admonished the beachgoers, stating that such actions will prevent the state from continuing to make “the meaningful progress we’ve made the past couple of weeks.”

Late Wednesday night, April 29, a memo that the California Police Chiefs Association sent to police chiefs throughout the state, leaked to the press, explaining that Newsom was expected to announce a statewide closure of all beaches and state parks.

Newsom on Thursday clarified that “we are going to do a hard close just in that part of the state, just that county.” The governor also said he hoped it is “a short-term adjustment.”

A letter from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services sent to the city of San Clemente on Thursday explains that the temporary order will go into effect Friday, May 1, prohibiting all activities on the beaches such as sunbathing, walking, running and watersports.

“We are hopeful and confident that we can collaborate with local Orange County leaders to identify measures that can restore safe beach access soon as possible,” the letter states. “But until such time as those measures are in place, this additional step to preserve public health and safety has proven essential.”

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett holds the 5th District seat, which represents coastal cities including Dana Point and San Clemente.

“I know emotions are running high, people are tired of being cooped up at home,” Bartlett told San Clemente Times. “Public safety and health is the number one priority. As we look to the future, we need to find an appropriate balance.”

Bartlett pointed to San Diego County as an example for a community effectively able to keep beaches open for active use.

“There are ways we can safely use the beach but keep everyone moving,” Bartlett said. “We have a number of members of the community who want to recreate. But we want to do everything we can to reduce the spread.”

In a prepared statement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Don Barnes calls on the governor to reconsider his order to close the beaches, which he called “wrong and fails to recognize the sacrifices made by our 3 million residents.”

“The people of this County have complied with his directives throughout this pandemic and have taken the measures necessary to ‘flatten the curve,’ oftentimes at the expense of their livelihood and quality of life,” Barnes said in the statement.

View this post on Instagram

A statement from Sheriff Barnes

A post shared by San Clemente Police Services (@ocsdsanclemente) on

He goes on to address the overcrowding at the beaches this past weekend, stating that he saw the majority of those beachgoers acting responsibly while the authorities addressed “instances of unsafe activity in a reasonable manner.”

“I implore the Governor to reconsider his action and work with local authorities, allowing us to address the few while not penalizing the majority,” he continued.

Speaking by phone with the San Clemente Times shortly before the governor’s official announcement, acting San Clemente Mayor Laura Ferguson said Newsom’s directive “is taking a step backward because locally we’ve done a good job of flattening the curve.”

“I think it’s time to reopen and be less restrictive, not more restrictive,” she added.

Newsom had noted during his Thursday briefing that Orange County is among the top four communities where the state has seen a concentration of cases.

As of April 29, there have been a total of 48,917 confirmed cases of coronavirus in California, with 1,982 fatalities, according to the California Department of Public Health. The largest pocket of cases in the state has centered on Southern California, particularly Los Angeles County, where there have been 22,560 positive cases.

Based on the most recent data from both the state and the Orange County Health Care Agency, the number of cumulative positive cases in Orange County is roughly 2,400 with about 45 deaths.

Within the past week, the county has seen four single-day spikes of more than 100 new cases. On April 25, the county health office reported 125 new cases, then 101 new cases on April 26, 108 new cases on April 29 and 145 new cases on April 30.

About 4,000 people in California who have contracted the virus are currently hospitalized, with 1,186 of them being treated in intensive care units, the latest health department data reports. Nearly 200 of those patients are in Orange County, and among them, 63 are in ICUs.

Nationwide, the U.S. this week hit a milestone in total case count, reaching more than 1 million cumulative cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 57,500 people have died of COVID-19 so far in the U.S.

California Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla said he supports the governor’s action.

“The Coastal Commission’s entire mission is ensuring access to the coast, and I recognize that many Southern Californians will be very disappointed with the decision,” Padilla said. “However, the governor’s action will serve to protect the health, safety and lives of all Californians. Our coast is a precious resource for all of us but today we should remember what’s most precious—life itself and the health of our communities.”

Padilla is also a Chula Vista councilmember. He says he had COVID-19 and was hospitalized for three weeks and in ICU on a ventilator for 11 days.

This is a developing story

Below is the initial version of the story published late Wednesday evening, April 29.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to direct all beaches and state parks in California to close effective Friday, May 1, according to a widely circulated memo from the California Police Chiefs Association.

The memo was sent to police chiefs throughout the state Wednesday, April 29, in order to plan ahead of Newsom’s order, which is anticipated to come down Thursday, April 30.

The governor’s decision to close all beaches and state parks come on the heels of heat wave that hit Southern California this past weekend, attracting thousands of people to flock to coastal cities, such as Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

The large crowds visibly defying the state’s stay-at-home directive garnered widespread media attention, subsequently prompting Newsom to issue a staunch rebuke.

In a press conference on Monday, April 27, Newsom admonished the beachgoers, stating that such actions will prevent the state from continuing to make “the meaningful progress we’ve made the past couple of weeks.”

The closure will also come a week after San Clemente’s beaches and coastal trails reopened for active-use, which allowed residents to surf, swim, run and jog, but not lounge or loiter.

This is a developing story.

SR_1Shawn Raymundo
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.

Lillian Boyd
Lillian Boyd is the senior editor for Picket Fence Media and city editor for Dana Point Times. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Her work experience includes interviewing incarcerated individuals in the Los Angeles County jails, an internship at the Pentagon covering U.S. Army news as well as reporting and anchoring for a local news radio station in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @Lillianmboyd and follow Dana Point Times at @danapointtimes.

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About The Author Staff

comments (7)

  • The is bologna in my opinion! I’m sure many others feel the same. This is not about safety, this is about control…let the people live!

  • This is gestapo measures. Violating our civil rights!!!!

  • This is ridiculous and malicious. But people vote for this. Those that voted for Newsom and his ilk should not be surprised. If they are then they need some serious sole searching. But ballot harvesting will guarantee more of this for time to come.

    I’m very grateful our sheriff is intelligent. Let’s all ignore the little-tyrants! Ignore them!

    Soon money from the feds will dry up and the state will then be in a crisis *again*. It can’t manage money worth a hill of beans other than payouts to political operative or for corrupt operations . There will be LOUD cries for higher taxes AGAIN!
    State spending 2020 set for 222.2B. 2012, 8-years ago: 130.7B. Has your income grown by 71% (that is, 170% from what it was in 2012?

  • See you at the beach this weekend!

  • 63 people in the icu in ALL of Orange County with Coronavirus? Are those numbers accurate?!?! That is so minimal, what on earth? And that is a top 4 concentrated area. Unbelievable. Can you provide where you got those numbers by chance? I saw it was according to the CA Department of public health, but I would love to spread the word on those numbers

  • In a population of about 3.2 million people, Orange County has had 50 deaths (as of May 1st) attributed to the Wuhan China virus. As has been repeatedly reported, those most susceptable are the elderly and those with co-morbidities. Traditionally, those with a communicable disease and at risk populations have been the ones quarantined, not the entire country.

    The governor does not have the constitutional authority to deny or prevent people from exercising their rights. He can ask citizens to voluntarily comply with certain regulations but he can’t order them to do what he wants. The governor was elected, he is not a dictator though he may think he has dictatorial power.

    It is time for people to get back to work. Unconstitutional demands need not be obeyed.

  • Newsom’s order is based on the Register’s BS photo that inaccurately depicted people not social distancing. Both NBPD and NBFD issued statements on the City’s Facebook page saying there was no problem with social distancing and the City of HB said they didn’t have any problems. Thanks Register – you screwed us.

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