L.A., other SoCal cities cracking down on crowds at parks, beaches to stem spread of COVID-19

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new measures Sunday to help fight the spread of the coronavirus in L.A., as well as speed up testing for high-risk residents.

While many Californians have been adhering to stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines, like keeping six feet distance from other people, far too many are not, the mayor said.

“This weekend we saw too many images of too many people crowding beaches or canyons beyond their capacity. Too many people, too close together, too often,” Garcetti said. “The longer we do that, the more people will get sick, and the more people will die. There’s no way to sugarcoat that.”

Group sports and recreation at local parks, including golf courses, are banned under the expanded “Safer at Home” order, he said.

“And I’m concerned about the crowds at our famous Boardwalk in Venice Beach

Parking lots near Venice Beach and the Boardwalk will be closed starting Monday, he said. Santa Monica has also decided to shut down its beach-side parking lots.

Garcetti said he planned to work with other mayors of beach communities and county officials to address the issue.

I hope we can assess how we can make sure that people aren’t congregating on our beaches, and if necessary, close them altogether,” he said.

Long Beach officials announced the closure of sports facilities in the city’s parks and beaches, and asked residents to avoid gathering in public.

“We continue to see large groups of people gathering in our parks playing team sports and at the beach – and that is a problem,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “We are in the midst of a public health emergency and people of all ages can be affected by COVID-19. For the sake of our hospitals, first responders and loved ones it is critical that everyone follow our Safer at Home order.”

Closed facilities in Long Beach and L.A. included basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, dog parks, playgrounds, skate parks, picnic areas. Group sports are not allowed.

While walking, hiking, biking and running in city parks and along the beach remains allowed, “the public is strongly encouraged to maintain at least six feet of physical distance between persons and, where possible, avoid touching foreign objects and surfaces with your hand,” city officials said in a written statement.

Garcetti said while the threat remains real, Sunday was also marked by good news.

“Just a few hours ago, the President announced that the United States Naval ship Mercy, a hospital ship, will deploy to the port of Los Angeles with 1,000 beds that will help us respond to this crisis,” he said. “The Mercy will become the largest hospital in Los Angeles when it docks at our port. This will save lives.”

And Garcetti said Los Angeles officials were planning to roll out a new online portal Monday to help expedite COVID-19 testing for those who need it most.

“We are moving quickly to launch a portal for people at the highest risk so that they can find information and help,” Garcetti said.

The portal, which will be accessed via coronavirus.lacity.org, “is for the most vulnerable Angelenos: Those with symptoms. Those who are 65 and older, those who have underlying health conditions, or both.”

After signing up through the city website, “Well direct people who meet these criteria to a testing center,” Garcetti said. They need only show an ID to prove they are the same person who signed up online.

Garcetti said there would likely be kinks to work out in the first days of the new program. “It won’t be perfect.”

But he said the city plans to improve and expand the program every day.

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