A man wearing a surgical mask
A man wearing a surgical mask on the first day of beach openings in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diegans’ first sanctioned day back at the beach following weeks of COVID-19-related coastal closures went well Monday, with visitors enjoying the surf and sand while largely complying with public health requirements, city leaders reported.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer described the start of the first phase of the region’s return to the shores as “very, very encouraging.”

Several municipalities in the county reopened their beaches to limited use — recreational activities such as running and swimming. In San Diego, gatherings, boating and group activities are not permitted, and boardwalks, piers and parking lots are closed.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and city Lifeguard Chief James Gartland, who head the agencies leading the enforcement of public health orders at the beaches, said Monday went smoothly, with some large crowds that thinned out as the day went on.

“For the most part, everybody followed the rules,” Nisleit said.

The lifeguard chief said there was “a little bit of troubled spots with the boardwalks and some of the pocket beaches,” but agreed, “San Diego did a great job today.”

Lifeguards made seven water rescues as of Monday afternoon, Gartland said.

The mayor said continued compliance with health-related mandates would be necessary to move to a planned second phase of the county’s reopening plan, which would permit all activities that allow for physical distancing at area beaches, bays, piers, boardwalks and parking lots.

“We do not want to give back the gains that we have sacrificed so hard (for),” Faulconer said. “We do not want to see the beaches crowded. That’s what led to their closure in the first place.”

Last week, the mayor announced what appeared to be preliminary plans for a phased countywide reopening of beaches, saying all cities in the county would move forward to reopen in unison once public health officials deemed fit.

However, on Friday, county officials “unexpectedly announced” they would lift a number of water use restrictions effective Monday, according to a statement posted to the city of Solana Beach’s website on Monday.

It indicated “the county announcement came as a complete surprise,” because “all coastal cities had been working together on a coordinated beach reopening for the week of May 4.”

State and city beaches in Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach remained closed Monday, though the statement indicated that plans were still on pace for reopenings next week in Solana Beach.

Elsewhere, beaches in Coronado, Encinitas and Oceanside reopened for recreation uses Monday.

— City News Service