Three Orange County Beaches Allowed to Reopen as State Moves Forward With Recovery Efforts

Beach partol trucks are seen on an empty beach in Santa Monica, California - Getty - H 2020
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

After offering the latest coronavirus figures — 63 more deaths and 56,212 positive cases — California Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed Tuesday that he has reached an agreement with the mayors of Huntington Beach, Dana Point and Seal Beach to reopen beaches there.

The path to reopening the economy in California and its largest county proved to be the focal point Tuesday of both Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 press briefings.

Newsom changed locations for his update, opting to post up from a Sacramento business called DISPLAY: California that sells state-made wares, in a move meant to signal the importance of small businesses as the state inches closer to Friday when “low-risk” retailers and supply manufacturers will be allowed to open doors.

After offering the latest coronavirus figures — 63 more deaths, and 56,212 positive cases, up 2.3 percent from Monday — the governor revealed that he has reached an agreement with the mayors of Huntington Beach, Dana Point and Seal Beach to reopen beaches there. The move followed similar agreements for San Clemente and Laguna Beach and it comes just days after Newsom ordered all Orange County beaches closed in the wake of packed shorelines during the first heat wave of the season.

However, that led to mass protests in some areas as residents took to the streets, while Huntington Beach officials took a motion to the court that was rejected. Newsom seemed optimistic that a similar agreement could be reached for nearby Newport Beach, thus opening up that coastline, as well. He made sure to express "real gratitude" for the "spirit of collaboration" with local officials in those beach cities.

The governor also touched on the announcement that he made Monday when he broke the news that bookstores, clothing shops, florists and sporting goods stores will be the first wave of businesses allowed to reopen on Friday. Newsom promised to get into specific guidelines on Thursday but made it clear that "we’re not going back to normal. It’s back to a new normal with adaptations and modifications until we get to immunity, until we get to a vaccine."

Meanwhile, during the L.A. County daily press briefing, Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that 58 more county residents have died, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,313. She also reported a high number of 1,638 newly diagnosed positive cases, and she attributed the increase to both a lag in test results and increased testing. Thus far in the pandemic, 27,815 L.A. County residents have tested positive and 182,000 tests have been administered, translating to a 13 percent positive rate.

Of those 27,815 positive cases, 5,081 individuals have been hospitalized at some point. There are currently 1,779 seeking care in hospitals, with 30 percent of those patients in ICUs and 19 percent on ventilators. Ferrer said Tuesday marked the fourth day in a row that there had been a decrease in the number of hospitalizations and that has given hope “we’re starting to see a leveling off and slight downward trend.”

COVID-19 illness continues to be most devastating to those with underlying medical conditions; 92 percent of people who have died so far in L.A. County faced underlying health conditions. Ferrer took time on Tuesday to point out what qualifies as such: chronic lung disease; moderate to severe asthma; serious heart conditions; severe obesity; diabetes; chronic kidney and liver disease; and advanced or poorly controlled HIV. “If you are in any of these groups, you need to take every single precaution imaginable,” she said. “You need to stay safe.”

Ferrer was asked about reopening and recovery efforts and whether the county would fall in line with the guidelines Newsom reveals later this week. She would only say that her team and health officer orders continue to be guided by science and the current status of the pandemic on a local level.

“We are working together as a county to figure out what’s possible here in L.A. given what our situation looks like,” said Ferrer, knowing that the county remains the epicenter of the outbreak in the state as it represents half of all deaths and nearly half of all positive cases. “We’re all looking forward to businesses reopening,” she added, before outlining in specific detail the questions that must be answered before restrictions can be eased.

Those questions include: Are mortality rates by age, poverty level and race/ethnicity remaining relatively stable?; Are hospitalization rates by age, poverty level and race/ethnicity remaining relatively stable?; Do high-risk populations have sufficient access to testing?; Do we have enough hospital capacity including ventilators and ICU beds?; Do we have enough supply of PPE for health care workers?; Do we have testing capacity and testing supplies?; and Do we have capacity to do case and contact tracing?

Ferrer also was asked about when L.A. County beaches would reopen, and she would only say that the current order is still in effect through May 15: "I think we’ll have a plan that again will have our beaches reopened in a way that is safe, and we’ll be doing that relatively soon."