Crowds of protestors converged along the streets of downtown Huntington Beach Friday, a day after California Governor Gavin Newsom issued the closure of all state beaches and parks.
This came after California’s Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to keep the county’s beaches open last weekend, despite coronavirus-related deaths skyrocketing. While local supervisors encouraged people to go outside and enjoy the beach weather, they didn’t anticipate the hundreds of thousands of eager residents that crowded the coastline.
Governor Newsom’s order this week was prompted by “the well-publicized media coverage of overcrowded beaches this past weekend,” according to a memo sent by the California Police Chiefs Association to law enforcement agencies, which was later obtained by CNN. Newport Beach in Orange County had over 90,000 visitors last weekend alone, drawing an alarming response from the governor at a press conference on Monday.
“Those images are an example of what not to see, what not to do if we’re going to make the meaningful progress we’ve made the past couple of weeks,” Newsom said.
However, this closure has drawn frustration and criticism from some residents and city leaders, who are making their feelings known.
Big crowds gather on the corner of Main and PCH in #HuntingtonBeach to protest #coronavirus closures. @ocregister #virus #covid19 #fullyopenca #wehaveroghts #orangecounty #gavinnewsom pic.twitter.com/pv8o4jsJGZ— Jeff Gritchen 🇺🇸 (@jeffgritchen) May 1, 2020
Closing Beaches in Orange County
The reclosure of beaches comes amidst the state’s announcement for a “reopening plan.”
Newsom wrote on Twitter that the state is still in the first phase of the plan: “staying home.”
However, he reiterated that people’s actions could delay the reopening of other activities in the coming weeks. Newsom mentioned Orange County as a point of concern, and moves to create stricter guidelines for the county. “We’re going to do a hard close in that part of the state.”
Anticipating Newsom’s announcement, Orange County Board of Supervisors member Don Wagner called Newsom’s order an “overreaction.”
“Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits,” he wrote. “Moreover, Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far. I fear that this overreaction from the state will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease, based on the best available medical information,” Wagner said in a statement on Wednesday.
However, Newsom pointed out that since last weekend, there has been a 5.2% increase in positive cases.
“This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful, sunny day around our coasts,” Newsom said Monday. “The virus is as transmittable as it’s ever been. … It is ubiquitous, it is invisible, and it remains deadly. Ask the 45 families who lost a loved one in the last 48 hours.”
While the curve hasn’t flattened, Newsom said: “We’re seeing some positive signs. That’s why I want to keep this momentum.”
More than that, he said they’re working to make free COVID-19 testing available to all California residents.
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