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California governor closes Orange County beaches after crowded weekend

Many states will have eased virus restrictions by Friday
Many states will have eased virus restriction... 03:55

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that beaches in Southern California's Orange County are being ordered closed. Despite the state's stay-at-home order, tens of thousands of people flocked to some Orange County beaches over the weekend as a heat wave hit the West Coast.

"We're going to do a hard close in that part of the state, just in the Orange County area," Newsom said at his daily coronavirus press briefing Thursday. Newsom said the state is "working with the county" to implement the closure.

Newport Beach saw some 80,000 visitors over the weekend. Images of the crowds were met with criticism from Newsom who said earlier this week that he was in contact with local officials. The Newport Beach City Council met Tuesday to consider a proposal to close the beaches for the next three weekends, but it was rejected.

Orange County Beaches In Southern California Remain Open During Coronavirus Lockdown
People are seen gathering on the beach north of Newport Beach Pier on Saturday, April 25, 2020, in Newport Beach, California. Getty

The governor was expected to close all of California's coastline. A memo sent Wednesday evening to police chiefs around the state — obtained by CBS Los Angeles and other news outlets — said all state parks and beaches would be closed effective Friday, May 1. When asked about the apparent change of plans Thursday, Newsom denied that he had ever considered a statewide closure, saying his administration has been "consistent."

He again stressed that the "vast majority" of Californians have followed the stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines, but said "specific issues" on some beaches "have raised alarm bells." Orange County has had one of the top COVID-19 infection rates of any county in the state, according to the governor, making any crowds there of particular concern.

Orange County is the only county in the region where beaches have remained open, as counties north and south of it have shut down their public spaces. Newsom said that leaving the beach open likely attracted visitors from outside the area, exacerbating the issue: "It wasn't just people from that county at that beach, it was people from all over."

Newsom said Thursday that the closure is "not an indictment of people that want to go the beach," but rather an expression of his sincere desire to keep residents safe. As of Thursday, California reported a total of 48,917 confirmed coronavirus cases, over 22,000 of which are in Los Angeles County, according to its health department. The state's total death toll is 1,982, with 95 reported in one day.

The governor reiterated Thursday that modifications to California's stay-at-home order could be weeks, not months, away if it stays the course. "The only thing that will delay (reopening) is more weekends like last week," Newsom said.

States ease restrictions despite warnings 03:42
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