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California Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce on Thursday that all state beaches and parks in the Golden State will be closed, after thousands of people flocked to them last weekend, ignoring social distancing guidelines.
The news came from a memo sent by the California Police Chiefs Association to law enforcement agencies across the state, and shared with multiple media outlets.
The order will come into effect on Friday, May 1, and the memo said the decision was triggered by “the well-publicized media coverage of overcrowded beaches this past weekend,” when tens of thousands of beachgoers flouted stay-at-home orders.
The memo states that it “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.”
On Wednesday the governor said that of the 100 or so beaches along California’s coastline, just 5% saw large crowds last weekend, mostly in Ventura and Orange Counties during a heatwave in the southern part of the state.
Newport Beach, in Orange County, saw 90,000 visitors last weekend, despite the urging from officials to follow the state’s stay-at-home order.
Newsom signaled his displeasure at the activity during a press conference on Monday.
“Those images are an example of what not to see, what not to do if we're going to make the meaningful progress we've made the past couple of weeks," Newsom said, adding that people’s actions could delay the reopening of other activities.
California has recorded 46,500 infections and 1,887 deaths from coronavirus so far — though new data released Wednesday suggests the death toll could be much higher.
Late on Wednesday evening, Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner told CNN that Newsom’s planned announcement was an "overreaction” and “not wise,” though he acknowledged Newsom has the authority to shutter the state's beaches.
In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Newsom repeated calls for people in California to continue to practice social distancing, saying: “We aren’t out of the woods yet,” adding:
“We must continue to take this seriously and allow our re-opening to be guided by science and public health.”
UPDATE: California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday that he was closing all beaches in Orange Country rather than across the entire state as the police memo had initially stated. Newsom said he never saw the memo, adding that “We just want to focus on where there’s a problem in a smart, strategic way. We don’t want to be heavy-handed about these things.”
Cover: People sit on the beach Sunday, April 26, 2020, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A lingering heat wave lured people to California beaches, rivers and trails again Sunday, prompting warnings from officials that defiance of stay-at-home orders could reverse progress and bring the coronavirus surging back. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)