California governor admonishes weekend crowds who flocked to beaches

by Laurent Banguet

Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday admonished Californians who flocked to beaches by the thousands at the weekend, warning that their behavior could reverse progress made in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can’t see images like we saw, particularly on Saturday, in Newport Beach and elsewhere,” Newsom told reporters, referring to photos showing people packing several beaches in southern California amid a heatwave.

“The virus doesn’t take the weekend off because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts,” he added.

The images from Newport Beach and neighboring Huntington Beach have prompted a backlash, with many comparing them to photos in April of beachgoers in Florida that sparked the #FloridaMorons hashtag.

Newsom said that while the most populous state in the country is weeks away from starting to gradually lift stay-at-home orders, the beach scenes from the weekend could push back that goal.

“The only thing that will set us back is our behavior,” he said.

“The only thing that can stop that is more images like we saw this weekend.”

Beaches in California have been closed to the public because of the pandemic, but a handful of cities have moved to allow visitors while enforcing restrictions, including for parking and social distancing.

California was the first state in the nation to impose a stay-at-home order in early March, a move largely seen as having contributed to preventing a death toll similar to those in New York or New Jersey.

The western state has registered nearly 45,000 cases of COVID-19 so far with almost 1,800 deaths, a fatality rate deemed modest considering the size of the state.

Newsom said he plans to work with local officials to reassess enforcement measures to avoid a repeat of the weekend beach scenes.

The city council in Newport Beach said on Monday it was considering closing the beaches for the next three weeks or blocking roads to avoid large crowds. (AFP)