Huntington Beach crowd
People sit in groups at Huntington City Beach on Sunday. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce on Thursday the closure of all beaches and state parks amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic after crowds jammed beaches last weekend.

The plan was detailed in a memo sent on Wednesday by the governor’s office to California’s police chiefs and obtained by the Reuters news service.

“After the well-publicized media coverage of overcrowded beaches this past weekend, in violation of Governor Newsom’s Shelter in Place Order, the Governor will be announcing tomorrow that ALL beaches and all state parks in California will be closed, effective Friday, May 1st,” the memo read.

“We wanted to give all of our members a heads up about this in order to provide time for you to plan for any situations you might expect as a result, knowing each community has its own dynamics.”

Newsom’s office and the California Police Chiefs Association did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

While Newsom, a Democrat, has said that curbside retail, manufacturing and other “lower-risk workplaces” should reopen in California within weeks as testing and contact-tracing improve, he has also said the state will step up enforcement of coronavirus-related public health restrictions after the scenes of crowded beaches last weekend.

Officials in the U.S. state’s Orange and Ventura Counties allowed access to their beaches during the warm spring weekend, prompting families and groups to head to the ocean.

The crowds on the beaches put at risk California’s progress in slowing the advance of the novel coronavirus, Newsom said on Monday.

In response to the proposed closure of the state parks and beaches in California, Orange County Supervisor Donald Wagner said it was not a wise step.

“Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious disease, including mental health benefits,” Wagner said, adding that the order could undermine the cooperative attitude of the county’s residents.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer criticized the move on Thursday morning.

“San Diegans have been following the rules set by our pubic health officials and lifeguards since beaches reopened this week,” Faulconer said in a tweet. “A sudden state ban on every single beach — regardless of the facts on the ground — sends the wrong message to regions where people are acting responsibly.”

The City of Del Mar sent an email message Wednesday telling residents its beaches would not reopen as planned on Thursday in anticipation of the governor’s announcement.

Most beaches in San Diego County were just allowed to reopen on Monday.

Updated at 8:25 a.m., Thursday, April 30, 2020

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.