‘Celebrate Labor Day without repeating our last failures’: L.A. County officials warn of holiday beach crowds amid pandemic

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With Labor Day weekend coming just as Los Angeles County is beginning to mark progress in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, officials on Friday urged residents to not crowd together on beaches.

“Our last two summer holidays both led to increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “I believe it is possible to celebrate Labor Day without repeating our last failures if everyone understands how much depends on individual actions we each will take.”

After seeing crowding on the shores during the Memorial Day holiday believed to have triggered a coronavirus surge, L.A. County officials closed beaches during the Fourth of July weekend. At the time, the state was already seeing skyrocketing numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

By late July, COVID-19 hospitalizations were at an all time high. But since then, the county has rolled back business reopenings and marked a steady decline in the number of people hospitalized for the virus each day.

L.A. County beaches will be open for Labor Day weekend, but with face masks and physical distancing required, the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors said Friday.

Beach parties, barbecues and bonfires are still not allowed, and beachgoers have to wear face masks at all times, unless they are eating, drinking or swimming in the ocean.

“Please have fun without exposing others or yourself to COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “This is not the time or the place for parties or gatherings. We will all win if we each do our part.”

L.A. County officials have previously said closing down beaches may be necessary if they see too much crowding that risks further spreading the coronavirus.

“If you’re planning to visit the beach, please know that they’re likely to be crowded this weekend, and any crowded space, even if it’s outdoors, can pose health and safety risk,” Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a Wednesday news conference. “Your best bet is to avoid crowds and visit the beach at off hours in the mornings, or in the early evening.”

Beachgoers may bring up to 10 members of their own households to the beach, but gatherings between members of different households are not allowed, county beach officials said.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of following the public health guidelines,” Beaches and Harbors director Gary Jones said. “It is absolutely imperative that beachgoers avoid crowds. If the beaches get too crowded, we may be forced to close them again.”

L.A. County had recorded a total of 246,407 coronavirus cases with 5,977 deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of Friday.

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