Beachgoers were eager to dip their toes in water on the first day the beaches reopened.
San Diego beachgoers were eager to dip their toes in water on Monday when beaches reopened. Photo by Chris Stone

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday he is ordering the closure of all beaches in Orange County to prevent gatherings in violation in social-distancing orders due to the coronavirus.

The order was expected to affect all beaches in California, but public officials in San Diego and other counties had immediately condemned the idea as “sending the wrong message.” Most cities in San Diego County had just successfully reopened their beaches on Monday.

Earlier in the week, Newsom lashed out at the crowds who flocked to beaches in Orange County — particularly in Newport Beach — and Ventura County, where many coastline areas remained open despite statewide stay-at-home and social- distancing orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off,” Newsom said. “This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts.”

The initial plan to close all beaches 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.

Newsom denied Thursday that he ever intended to make such a sweeping order, and said the “vast majority” of the state did not have issues with large crowds gathering.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and county Supervisor Greg Cox both condemned the anticipated order on Thursday morning, saying it effectively punished residents who were following restrictions.

“Great news: the Governor heard us. San Diego beaches WILL STAY OPEN under our plan approved by lifeguards and health officials,” tweeted Faulconer after Newsom’s announcement. “In a time of great crisis we don’t need knee-jerk policies. We need to keep a steady hand. It’s the only way to keep the public’s trust. Keep it up, SD!”

Updated at 1:50 p.m., Thursday, April 30, 2020

Chris Jennewein

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