County-operated beaches in Orange County were allowed to reopen Thursday, just as a heat wave was set to overtake much of the Southern California coast.
Most city-run beaches in the county were already reopened earlier in the week, or planning to reopen in coming days, for limited hours and for active use only. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered O.C. beaches to temporarily close off access to the public last week, in an effort to curb spread of COVID-19, after crowds overtook the shores.
The beaches reopened under the condition that people visit to get exercise or stay active in some form.
Sky5 aerial footage of Huntington Beach Thursday afternoon showed many people in the water, surfing and swimming. But others were still simply lounging on the sand, settled in with towels and umbrellas.
It was unclear whether beach rules were being enforced.
Seal Beach is set to reopen Monday for active use only, Sgt. Nick Nicholas of the city’s police department told KTLA.
“It’s important to know that about 40% of our population is over 65, and so in that super vulnerable category so we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing by not having more people get sick,” Nicholas said.
Like the other beaches, Seal Beach will allow activities that keep people moving, like swimming and running, but not sunbathing or picnicking.
“This is a beach in motion,” Nicholas said.
Some tennis courts and parks in the county were allowed to open back up too.
Parking around O.C. beaches will remain limited as cities try to keep the crowds from getting too big, especially as a heat wave sets in.
O.C. Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Steele said she was still upset over the governor’s original decision to close the beaches, calling it “arbitrary and capricious, and completely unnecessary.”
“Frankly, I’m still confused as to the governor’s motives of the singling out our county, which as I just noted is experiencing low number of COVID-19 related to other regions,” she said.
The county has comparatively low death rate of 2.1 COVID-19 fatalities per 100,000 residents. The death rates for its neighboring counties of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego are 13.5, 8.1 and 5.6, respectively.
But the number of cases still has yet to peak there, and 96 new infections were reported Thursday for a total of 3,092 cases. Of those infected, 66 people have died, while another 186 remain hospitalized.
A heat advisory is in place until 9 p.m. Thursday along the coast and valleys of Southwest California, according to the National Weather Service. The heat will hit the Los Angeles County coast, including Downtown L.A., the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, the Santa Monica Mountains and the Ventura County coast and valleys.
The San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County coasts also remain under the advisory, as well as the Santa Clarita and Santa Ynez valleys.
The agency recommends drinking plenty of fluids, remaining in an air-conditioned room and out of the sun, and checking in with relatives and neighbors.
Los Angeles County, where temperature were expected to hit 95 degrees, opened up eight cooling centers that would operate from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday for people who lack air-conditioning at home.
Physical activity should be done in the early morning or in the evening when possible. To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments.
Meanwhile, L.A. County beaches remain closed, although some trails and parks are set to reopen Friday with strict social distancing guidelines.