USA

County-run beaches in O.C. will close July 4th weekend as coronavirus cases surge

Officials in Orange County on Thursday announced that a dozen county-operated beaches will be closed over the Fourth of July weekend as the region grapples with a surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Aliso Beach, Capistrano Beach, Salt Creek Beach, Baby Beach, Bayside Beach, Camel Point Beach, Poche Beach, Strands Beach, Table Rock Beach, Thousand Steps Beach, Treasure Island Beach and West Street Beach will be closed on Saturday and Sunday.

The stretches of coastline, which are all operated by the county, add to a growing list of city beaches that will close for the holiday in an effort to keep crowds from congregating on the sand and potentially spreading COVID-19.

Laguna Beach was the first coastal city to restrict beach access over the Fourth of July. The City Council voted Tuesday to close city-operated beaches entirely on July 4, a day that typically draws massive crowds to the city. On Thursday, the city decided to extend its closure until 5 a.m. Monday.

The city had previously canceled its fireworks show in an effort to thin crowds but took the issue a step further after Los Angeles and Ventura counties closed their beaches and residents began expressing concerns over a possible influx of beachgoers.

“Particularly on the Fourth of July when there were fireworks ... it looked like sardines in a can,” Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said this week. “There was no space in between people. My concern is that even without the fireworks, there just may be a huge density of people on the beaches.”

The city’s police department will increase monitoring and enforcement at the beach and can issue citations for people who do not comply with the closures, officials said.

On Wednesday, Seal Beach followed with its own decision to close beaches, beach parking lots, volleyball courts, the pier and restrooms. The amenities will reopen Sunday morning, but the city may extend the closure “if it is believed the reopening will be detrimental to the health of the community,” city officials said in a news release.

Newport Beach decided to put its beaches under hard closure from 10 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Sunday after two lifeguards tested positive for COVID-19 and 23 were placed in quarantine.

Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said his division still has adequate staffing but would be “stretched pretty thin.” Of the lifeguards in quarantine, one is showing symptoms of COVID-19 and hasn’t been tested yet.

“I cannot in good conscience add more onto our lifeguards,” Mayor Will O’Neill said at an emergency City Council meeting Wednesday approving the closure. “We just can’t responsibly ask our lifeguards to do more with less. We just can’t.”

Huntington Beach will also close its beaches, beach parking lots and pier on Saturday.

“The potential, if we’re the only beach open, to be inundated certainly exists,” City Manager Oliver Chi said at a council meeting held a few hours after Newport’s. “We don’t want that situation.”

Beaches in Dana Point and San Clemente remained open as of Thursday afternoon.

The closures come amid a troubling uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that prompted state officials to scale back the reopening of some business sectors in the county, including bars and restaurants.

On Wednesday, Orange County confirmed five additional coronavirus-related deaths and 570 new COVID-19 cases. The daily tally brings the total number of cases in Orange County to 14,413, with 345 deaths.

The county has a case rate of 126.4 per 100,000 residents and a positive test rate of 10.4%, according to the most recent county data.

The state has set a desired standard average of 25 positive cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period and a seven-day average positive test rate of 8%.

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