The confusing welter of restrictions about what can and can’t be done while the coronavirus holds American in its grip is now as clear as Los Angeles smog for residents of Southern California.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Monday said that all beaches in the county will be closed over the upcoming Fourth of July weekend to put the brakes on a resurgence in coronavirus cases, according to KTTV-TV. The county also announced that fireworks displays will be banned to prevent large crowds from gathering.
“Whether we continue on this recovery journey is debatable,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday. “COVID-19 is taking control, and we need to take control back.”
“We were not consulted on the beach closure, and will only assist our beach cities in closing parking lots and traffic enforcement on PCH,” he said, referring to the Pacific Coast Highway.
“In regards to enforcing the beach closure, we will not be enforcing it because we are ‘Care First, Jail Last,'” Villanueva said.
His comments were at variance with a tweet from the Lost Hill Station of his own department, which said, “Today, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors announced the closure of our beaches, piers, beach bike paths, and beach access points beginning 7/3/2020 through 7/6/2020. The LHS Beach Team will be patrolling the beaches throughout the weekend.”
Today, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors announced the closure of our beaches, piers, beach bike paths, and beach access points beginning 7/3/2020 through 7/6/2020. The LHS Beach Team will be patrolling the beaches throughout the weekend…https://t.co/N2Mb1ETR2A pic.twitter.com/251bXVSuTP
— LASD Lost Hills Stn. (@LHSLASD) June 29, 2020
The beach closing order was triggered by the health department’s announcement of 2,903 new cases and 22 additional deaths, which put the county’s totals at 100,722 cases and 3,326 deaths as of Monday.
A news release from the Department of Public Health called the spike “the single largest one-day case count since the pandemic began. Data show increases in people testing positive for the virus and increases in hospitalizations as a result. Projections by the Department of Health Services show a marked increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks, which could cause a surge in our healthcare system.”
“Closing the beaches and prohibiting fireworks displays during this important summer holiday weekend was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s the responsible decision to protect public health and protect our residents from a deadly virus,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “The Fourth of July holiday weekend typically means large crowds and gatherings to celebrate, a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19.”
“We all need to take this virus more seriously and residents and business owners must do their part. Physical distancing isn’t optional, wearing a face covering isn’t optional, spending time only with those you live with isn’t optional — these are requirements in the Health Officer Order and are the tools we have to protect each other, our families and those most vulnerable in our communities.”
Garcetti claimed the closures were unavoidable.
“I know how much we look forward to this time of year,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But not this year. This year we have to think about saving lives to protect what we have in this country … and to make sure our economy doesn’t take more steps backward.”
Garcetti said that if the disease spreads as it has been recently, within a week LA County will return to peak pandemic levels.
The county is among those targeted by an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom to close all bars and nightclubs.
“It’s been clear around the country these are big public health threats,” Garcetti said. “These are already dangerous clusters. These are regularly the spaces where spread is happening. It seemed clear what was coming.”
The surge in cases is not from increased testing alone, Ferrer said.
“It’s just going to cause a lot of hurt to a lot of people,” the sheriff said, adding that he will have to lay off 345 people to balance his budget.
“Why would it all fall on law enforcement?” Villanueva said. “Because they want to defund the Sheriff’s Department and they want to listen to the mob who is demanding defund the police.”
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