There was no scientific reason to close California’s beaches in the early days of the pandemic. California did anyway.
On Thursday, the governor of America’s most populous state reversed course a bit. After telling residents to stay at home as much as possible to avoid COVID transmission, he — or someone on his team — realized this was bad for morale.
Now, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is suggesting that residents hit the beaches to boost their mental health.
This is pretty impressive when you consider the fact it comes an entire nine months after lockdowns began in earnest and just weeks after California imposed one of the strictest set of coronavirus restrictions in the nation, but better late than never — right?
“Mental health is physical health. Staying active & connected right now is so important. Get outdoors with your household safely. Explore your neighborhood & CA’s beauty!” Newsom tweeted.
There’s a joke about the natural beauty of The French Laundry — the expensive Napa Valley restaurant where Newsom attended a birthday party at which almost every social distancing rule his state suggested was broken — but at this point, I’m too exhausted with his nonsense to make it. The tweet got even better, though. Take a look at his suggestions:
Mental health is physical health. Staying active & connected right now is so important.
Get outdoors with your household safely. Explore your neighborhood & CA’s beauty!
•Go to a beach
•Take your kids to a playground
•Go on a hike
•Walk your dog
We can get through this.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 10, 2020
“We can get through this,” Newsom said.
Californians probably can — provided, of course, they can go to the beaches. During the Fourth of July, the parking lots to state beaches were closed — which meant, for all intents and purposes, those state beaches were closed.
Wineries in Napa Valley were also closed. Ironically, the winery he owns a stake in remained open; it wasn’t in an affected county and his control of it is in a blind trust, but I don’t think anyone would have cursed out Newsom if he put some pressure on the trustees to close the place down and pay the staff to stay home. Unless, of course, drinking wine is important to mental health.
Several locales sued the state earlier in the year over the beach closures, including the Orange County communities of Huntington Beach and Dana Point.
“Our experience here locally has been that most people are being responsible and complying with social distancing, and given that Orange County has among the lowest per capita COVID-19 death rates in California, the state’s action today seems to prioritize politics over data,” Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta said in a statement back in May.
She was accurate and the state was engaging in coronavirus theater. And yet, a judge denied the legal challenges.
“In denying the [temporary restraining order], the Court commented that based on the limited time it had to consider the very serious issues presented, it felt compelled to defer to the State’s concerns about public health,” the city of Dana Point said in a statement.
Curious, because the state’s concerns about public health seem significantly different now. Funny how that works:
When you force your state to spend millions on enforcing insane beach and playground closings (needlessly destroying holidays in the process), and then you urge people to go to…
Beaches and playgrounds!#RecallGavinNewsom
— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) December 10, 2020
Dude. With the amount of contradictory and illogical messaging you push out, your mental health concerns should really be pointed inwardly.
— Declared Monarch Dienekes ✝️ (@Dienekes16) December 11, 2020
Some also noted California’s COVID restrictions have been taking a different sort of toll on mental health:
Mental health is also being able to keep your business open, pay your employees, rent, bills, & feed your family, especially if there is no data that says your business should be closed.
— Laura Fagan (@laurajfagan) December 10, 2020
And by the way, it’s not as if the state quite has its messaging coordinated yet:
But, but, you said… ??? pic.twitter.com/0vdUlw6jtm
— Dakota Drone Works (@dakota_works) December 10, 2020
Now, to be fair to Newsom (’tis difficult, but let’s try), the Daily Mail U.K. points out that back in April, he’d originally been slated to do what was known as a “hard close” of the state’s beaches after a handful of photos showed beaches moderately crowded.
Seeking relief from a heat wave, thousands of people crowded beaches in Southern California this weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite a statewide stay-at-home order implemented by the governor last month. https://t.co/H68PjgJoqw
— CNN (@CNN) April 27, 2020
Mind you, this is actually socially distanced. It was also a month before the tragic death of George Floyd, after which Newsom’s party decided almost no outdoor crowd, no matter how tightly packed, posed any kind of threat of transmission.
Whatever the case, Newsom decided he was only going to close beaches in Orange County — hence the lawsuits.
Even at that, the state of California made it clear it didn’t want people outside, especially not on its beaches. And then it decided it did, presumably when they began grasping the public health implications of residents cooped up for too long with no physical exercise or mental health outlet.
If only there was a way to avoid this. Like, say, looking at the science.
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