Five days after ordering the “hard close” of all state and local beaches in Orange County to curb the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced three more Orange County cities can begin allowing the public back on some areas of the scenic coastline.
The governor reached agreements with Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Dana Point to lift state-mandated closures, with some restrictions and effective immediately, one day after California approved plans put forth by local officials in Laguna Beach and San Clemente.
“The good news, is just a few hours ago, we were able to make similar commitment in terms of protocols and procedures with Huntington Beach, Dana Point and Seal Beach,” Newsom said in the early afternoon at his daily coronavirus news briefing. “So those are opening back up as well.”
All three cities submitted plans that were consistent with the state’s guidance to avoid overcrowding and ensure enough space for physical distancing, according to a news release from the California Natural Resources Agency.
Huntington Beach’s plan includes opening beaches and beach bike pathway only for physical activity between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. Included in Surf City’s guidance are Huntington State Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach.
Approved recreational usage include walking, jogging, running, biking, swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, paddle boarding and kayaking.
Fishing will also be permitted in areas where such activity is normally permitted, provided people abide by physical distancing requirements.
All gatherings, as well as sunbathing, loitering and passive games, are prohibited for the time being, according to officials
“We’re delighted to be reopening our beaches for active recreation, which will allow our community to once again enjoy the recreational and mental health benefits from spending time at the Pacific Ocean,” Mayor Lyn Semeta said in a statement. “The new active recreation rules that we’re instituting will allow for continued beach access in a manner that emphasizes the need to practice safe social distancing.”
Seal Beach is implementing a four-phase approach similar to that of Laguna Beach. Starting sunrise on May 11, beaches can be accessed Monday through Thursday during daylight hours and just for active use. They will be closed Friday through Sunday for phase 1, officials said.
The second phase includes daily hours from dawn to sunset, including weekends, but only for recreational activities.
In phase 3, hours will be extended from dawn until 10 p.m., but as in the previous stages, beach gatherings will continue to be barred.
The beach will resume full operations and hours only in phase 4. Officials did not provide a time frame for any of the stages.
“We are grateful for the Governor’s support in reopening our beaches,” Seal Beach Mayor Schelly Sustarsic said in a statement. “We understand how important it is for people to enjoy our beautiful coastline, and this plan will ensure that people have access to the sand and water for active uses while still remaining safe.”
As was the case for other plans approved in Orange County, people going to Dana Point beaches also must be there to partake in physical activity, whether it be walking, running or jogging on the sand, or swimming, surfing or paddling in the ocean, officials said.
Things like sitting, lying down and sunbathing are temporarily prohibited, according to a city news release.
Visitors at Dana Cove Beach will also be greeted by signs informing them of sanitation and physical distancing requirements.
Hours for when local beaches could be accesses were not immediately provided by the city.
Many O.C. beach closures lifted, some remain
Last Thursday, Newsom ordered the closure of all beaches in the county, citing photos and images from the previous weekend that appeared to capture throngs of people descending upon sandy stretches of Newport Beach during Southern California’s first heat wave of the year.
Describing those images as “disturbing,” the governor expressed concern that people had not been following the statewide state-at-home order or physically distancing themselves from others outside their household.
But by Monday, the governor began permitting some local beaches to reopen.
Laguna Beach on Tuesday went into the first phase of it’s four-phase plan, which includes temporarily limiting access from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays, and only for physical activities. The city’s beaches will be closed on weekends, at least during the first phase. A timeline for that and other phases has not been provided.
San Clemente beaches will be open seven days a week, but also only for recreational use, according to officials. Similarly, the San Clemente Municipal Pier also reopened Tuesday for physical activities, with officials emphasizing that people must follow social distancing guidelines.
Meanwhile, Newport Beach officials have submitted the city’s plan and are still awaiting a response from the governor’s office.
“We hope to hear from State authorities shortly on whether Newport Beach will join other Orange County cities in a safe, coordinated approach to reopening the beaches,” John Pope, the city’s public information manager, said in a statement.
While Newsom hasn’t expressly given Newport Beach the go-ahead yet, the governor did say Tuesday that he is hopeful for new developments there very soon.