California Gov. Gavin Newsom intends to order the closure of all state beaches and parks starting Friday, according to a copy of a memo provided to CNN by a senior law enforcement official.
“We wanted to give all of our members a heads up about this in order to provide time for you to plan for any situations you might expect as a result, knowing each community has its own dynamics,” the memo says.
The closures are expected to be announced Thursday, and state park personnel will help in local efforts to close the sites, the memo said.
Newsom’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The memo cited overcrowding of thousands of people at Southern California’s beaches over the past weekend in the decision to announce closures.
Earlier Wednesday, the governor said at a press conference that of about 100 beaches along the state’s coastline, about 5% saw large crowds. Orange County and Ventura County beaches were packed as visitors looked for relief from a heat wave.
Newport Beach in Orange County saw about 90,000 beachgoers last weekend despite the urging of officials to follow the state’s stay-home order. On Tuesday, Newport Beach’s City Council voted to keep its beaches open, with additional enforcement of physical distancing.
An Orange County board of supervisors member pushed back on Newsom’s expected announcement, calling it an “overreaction.”
In a statement late Wednesday, Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner acknowledged Newsom has the authority to shutter the state’s beaches, but called the decision “not wise.”
“Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits,” he wrote.
“Moreover, Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far. I fear that this overreaction from the state will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease, based on the best available medical information.”
Though authorities in those counties reported that beachgoers largely observed social distancing rules, Newsom chastised beachgoers and warned that defying the state’s stay at home order could delay its reopening.
“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home. We have to manage and augment our behavior,” Newsom said Monday. “The only thing that will set us back is people stopping practicing physical distancing.”
The state announced a plan Tuesday to phase in reopening, though the state is not rushing back to normalcy. Newsom said the state is now in the first stage, staying home, and opening retail businesses and schools is still “weeks away.”