The Coast News Group
Newport Beach
Gov. Newsom has been insistent that residents continue adhering to social- distancing requirements, saying in recent days that the state could begin lifting some restrictions in "weeks, not months'' if people continue to stay at home. Courtesy photo

Newsom orders closure of Orange County beaches, avoids statewide mandate

NEWPORT BEACH — Despite indications he might close the coastline statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom today instead ordered a temporary “hard close” only of beaches in Orange County, where crowds gathered on the sand during last weekend’s heatwave amid social-distancing mandates due to the coronavirus.

“We’re guided by health. We’re guided by your health and the health of others,” Newsom said in announcing the closure.

On Monday, Newsom lamented images of crowds that gathered on some beaches in Orange County — particularly in Newport Beach — last weekend, saying such masses of people are a feeding ground for COVID-19 and could reverse the progress the state has made in “flattening the curve” of the illness.

He repeated those concerns Thursday while noting the “vast majority” of the state did not have issues with large crowds gathering.

“But in areas where we didn’t see that, you have to acknowledge that, you have to own that. And you have to figure that out,” Newsom said. “I’ve been led by my health directors … that feel we need to address that a
little more specifically in a targeted way — the volume of people in a concentrated space, particularly in … a few coastal cities, off and around the Orange County area. Those were the point of particular concerns. So today we want to make some clarifications. We’re going to do a hard close in that part of the state, just in the Orange County area.

“We’re going to have a temporary pause on the beaches down there, state and local beaches,” he said. “We want to work very closely with local elected officials and we’re committed to doing that. And if we can get
some framework and guidelines to get this right, we can reopen very, very quickly. But we’ve got to make sure we can get this right.”

Newsom had expressed optimism earlier this week that local Orange County officials would take action to prevent a recurrence of last weekend’s beach gatherings. But on Tuesday, the Newport Beach City Council rejected a proposal to shutter beaches for the next three weekends. Laguna Beach officials, meanwhile, voted to allow active use of the beaches from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays beginning Monday.

“We heard Gov. Newsom’s comments and are awaiting a copy of the actual order,” said John Pope, a spokesman for Newport Beach. “The city of Newport Beach intends to honor the governor’s directive to close Orange County beaches.”