UPDATE: 3/27/20: All Los Angeles County beaches closed to the public on Friday, March 27, as part of the ongoing response to COVID-19. The new order expands upon the series of “soft closures” established previously, which closed parking lots and certain access points at beaches, hiking trails, and other outdoor areas. Beach-adjacent bike paths, piers, and promenades throughout the county are included in the shut-down.
“The crowds we saw at our beaches last weekend were unacceptable,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn told Fox 11. “I understand that this is a huge sacrifice for everyone who enjoys going to our beaches. But we cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus.”
The order is temporary and, Hahn says, the beaches will be reopened to the public as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
Some people just aren’t isolating effectively enough. Over the weekend, crowds could be seen packing into parks and beaches around the region, with many people making no visible effort to maintain social distancing. In response, on Sunday night the mayor ordered the closure of certain parks and recreation facilities, parking lots, and trails. Similar restrictions have also been put into place in Santa Monica and Long Beach.
This weekend we saw too many people packing beaches, trails and parks. So we are closing sports and recreation at @LACityParks and closing parking at city beaches. That doesn’t mean gather elsewhere. This is serious. Stay home and save lives.
— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) March 23, 2020
Many playgrounds, fitness areas, and recreation facilities in L.A. were already closed. The new rules expand the closures to city-owned golf courses, all beach parking lots in Venice and Santa Monica, and the banning of organized group sports activities in any city park. The 75,000 acres of parkland and hiking trails owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority will now be closed to the public, along with any parking lots and access trails it controls. An update posted to the official Twitter account of L.A. County on Monday afternoon also noted that hiking trails around the county will be closed as well.
Other municipalities have issued similar rules. In Long Beach, all sports facilities, playgrounds, dog parks, and other park areas are now closed. And the mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia, made clear he was frustrated with his constituents being slow to make good decisions for themselves.
“Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing,” he tweeted. “I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there’s no crisis. You could be carrying the virus, have no symptoms, and be responsible for the illness or worse of others.”
Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing. I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there’s no crisis. You could be carrying the virus, have no symptoms, and be responsible for the illness or worse of others.
— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarciaLB) March 22, 2020
In San Diego County, things got so intense over the weekend that one national forest logged its busiest day in park history, illegal parking was widespread, and several people had to be airlifted out of the area.
While it can be hard to tell from social media when a photo was actually taken–it’s possible some photos of crowds that were posted over the weekend were more of the #latergram variety–local television station NBC 4 sent their news chopper out to capture footage over the weekend. They found Los Angeles and Orange County beaches packed with people who appeared to be out having fun, playing games, and assembling in groups, directly flouting the guidelines.
Getting outside and staying active during this time is good. Nobody is saying that “safer-at-home” means you have to literally stay indoors 24/7 (assuming you’re not showing coronavirus symptoms, of course). But if you’re going to enjoy public spaces, it requires extra care and contentiousness.
So how can you go out for a walk without putting yourself and your community in danger? Consider avoiding peak times and popular locations, go by yourself or with your immediate isolation-mates and don’t plan to meet up with friends when you get to the park, and if you see your preferred space is already populated, don’t add to the crowd.
“We know that it’s difficult to stay at home when the weather is so nice and being close to the beach is one of the primary reasons why we love to call Santa Monica home,” Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole told the Los Angeles Times. “Yet this is a time when we must take the guidelines from our health officials to heart.”
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