Tens of thousands of people congregated at beaches in Southern California this weekend amid a heatwave and pandemic, with many ignoring the state and White House’s guidelines on social distancing.
Orange County’s Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week to open some beaches and outdoor areas in preparation for the first heatwave of 2020. The board decided to close car parks to limit the spread of coronavirus, forcing those who drove to park in nearby neighborhoods.
Crowds of beachgoers and surfers flocked to the Huntington Beach coast over the weekend as hot weather descended over the region. While officials urged people to adhere to social distancing measures, local news and various photos shared online indicated that many were less than six feet apart and not wearing face masks or coverings.
Newport Beach lifeguards estimated that roughly 40,000 people arrived on Friday to enjoy the sun. “It’s crowded out,” Newport Beach lifeguard battalion chief Brian O’Rourke told NBC News, adding that lifeguards haven’t encouraged many issues with social distancing as they’ve been primarily focused on watching the water. “We’ve had dozens of ocean rescues and hundreds of preventative actions,” he said.
Beaches remain closed and empty in Los Angeles County and local officials have requested their citizens refrain from driving to other counties with eased stay-at-home restrictions for sunbathing and beach time.
“There is a direct correlation between what you do this weekend and how long this will take and how many lives we will lose,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Friday. “If you stay home this weekend, our case numbers will drop, and we will stop the spread of this virus.”
Ventura County also opened its beaches for the first time since the state went into lockdown, but those who visit a beach in the area must keep moving through and aren’t allowed to sunbathe or lounge.
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) last week tweeted that the state has been “flattening the curve” and urged residents to “stay home and practice physical distancing.” As U.S. governors in some states begin their process of relaxing coronavirus measures, Newsom has maintained his stay-at-home order in California. He has not indicated when the measure will be lifted.
Newsweek reached out to Newsom’s office for comment. This article will be updated with any responses.
As of April 26, more than 43,500 individuals had tested positive for coronavirus in California, with roughly 1,700 deaths caused by the new disease. Overall, the U.S. currently has a total of more than 987,100 cases of Covid-19, with 55,400 deaths and 118,750 recoveries.