Orange County officials criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close all beaches in the county Thursday, during a press briefing on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The briefing came just hours after Newsom announced the temporary closure of all local and states beaches in O.C. Earlier in the week, the governor had criticized beachgoers who crowded O.C. shores amid a heatwave over the weekend, defying the state’s stay-at-home order meant to curb spread of COVID-19.
O.C. Supervisor Michelle Steel called the governor’s actions “arbitrary” and said it was an act of retribution against the county.
“We should be rewarding our communities… not closing down only Orange County beaches and this is not acceptable,” she said.
The major point of contention, she said, is “a few misleading pictures, taken at particular angle” that made it look like beachgoers were crowding.
“It is clear to us that the governor… is basing the decision to single out Orange County based on a couple of press photos,” Supervisor Don Wagner said.
After a media question that mentioned there were also videos of the crowded beaches, Wagner rolled back, saying, “We are not saying there is 100% compliance…” The few violations don’t mean that all beaches have to be shut down, he said.
O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes said while he hasn’t seen the order, the plan is “to not take enforcement action.”
“My intent… is to seek voluntary compliance,” Barnes said. “We have been able to accomplish that.”
In a statement to KTLA, the city of Newport Beach said they are awaiting the actual order from governor’s office but that the city “intends to honor the Governor’s directive to close Orange County beaches.”
Surge in coronavirus cases
Health officials in Orange County reported 145 new coronavirus cases and one new death Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 2,393 confirmed cases and 45 deaths, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The surge in confirmed cases is up more than 700 from a week ago.
Currently, 190 people are hospitalized with the virus, including 63 who are in intensive care units, the agency reported.
Santa Ana has the largest number of confirmed cases with 366, followed by Anaheim with 346 and Huntington Beach with 223.
The county doubled the number of coronavirus tests being conducted per day, with an average of 1,531 tests per day as of Thursday, health officials said. Their goal is to conduct 4,000 tests per day.
New guidelines for reopening businesses
The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved guidelines Tuesday for reopening businesses, houses of worship, entertainment and sports venues (including youth sports), both public and private education providers and other organizations. However, state guidelines must be lifted before they can do so.
“These guidelines do not supersede any conflicting or more restrictive orders issued by local governments, the State of California, or the Federal Government,” the guidance states.
The order requires businesses to adhere to social distancing measures, enforce employees to wash or sanitize their hands every 30 minutes, wear face coverings and have their temperature taken before each shift.
“The latest data shows the County has had a significant increase in layoffs and unemployment
claims. With the curve trending down and OC healthier than surrounding counties, we don’t
want to trade one problem for a bigger problem,” Supervisor Don Wagner said. “These guidelines
are to give businesses the confidence to function within the state recommendations but with
necessary safety precautions.
Check back for updates to this developing story.