Calif. Governor Warns That Packed Beaches Put Coronavirus Pandemic Progress At Risk

People enjoy a day out on Sunday in Huntington Beach, Calif. High numbers of beachgoers over the weekend prompted warnings from officials that defying stay-at-home orders could reverse progress and bring the coronavirus surging back. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP hide caption

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

High temperatures drew large crowds to beaches along the California coastline over the weekend, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that photos of the packed shorelines show “what not to do.”

That behavior could put the progress the state has made in battling the coronavirus pandemic in jeopardy, the governor warned at a news conference.

“I cannot impress upon you more, to those Californians watching, that we can’t see the images like we saw, particularly on Saturday in Newport Beach and elsewhere, in the state of California,” Newsom said. “This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts.”

Many counties across the state have shut down beach access in the face of the pandemic but Orange, Ventura and Santa Cruz county beaches have largely remained open.

Still, officials in Ventura county commended beachgoers for adhering to social distancing guidelines and the governor admitted the majority of open beaches saw good behavior.

Modifications of the statewide order, are “weeks, not months away,” the governor said, but any gradual loosening of that order is “driven by data and behavior.”

“The only thing that will set us back is people stopping to practice physical distancing and appropriate social distancing,” Newsom said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to slow down our ability to reopen this economy.”

Newsom urged Californians to continue to heed the state’s stay-at-home order, which was put in place in March, and has yet to expire. On Monday, Bay Area officials announced an extension of their shelter in place order through May.

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As of Monday, 43,600 Californians have been sickened with coronavirus and over 1,700 have died. While those numbers have continued to rise over the last month, the number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals has leveled in the last week.

The governor’s warning comes as states such as Georgia and South Carolina are reopening access to many businesses and beaches.

Newsom also mentioned in the briefing more aggressive enforcement was likely in those beach communities that saw high traffic. Law enforcement and local officials in Orange and Santa Cruz counties plan to meet in the coming days to discuss potential tactics or additional orders to limit beach access.

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