Call it the COVID-19 version of coastal protection.
San Luis Obispo County is sending a message to people in neighboring counties: Stay away from our beaches.
“We are considering anyone who is not a San Luis Obispo County resident to be an out-of-towner,” said county health officer Dr. Penny Borenstein on Monday. “We don’t want to see people coming into our county at this moment.”
Beaches for Residents Only
San Luis Obispo County’s shelter-in-place orders remain in place. It limits group activity and business to the most essential needs while requiring social distancing of at least six feet.
But, said Borenstein, “Using the term shelter at home does not literally mean that people should not leave their homes for essential activities or fresh air and exercise.”
There’s a challenge, however.
“So if someone wants to drive, you know, a short distance across the county to a beach and can find a parking spot — go,” Borenstein said. But even for “our own residents, how do we maintain that social distancing? How do we maintain not seeing great numbers of people flocking to our beaches, even from within the county?”
The city and county of San Luis Obispo are working together on a phased reopening. A joint news release included a statement that is echoed throughout California: “Remember, it’s a dimmer, not a light switch.”
Ultimately, the decisions will be “based on scientific guidance and data, in coordination with public and private partners, to ensure the community reopens and the local workforce gets back to work as safely as possible,” the county said.
Newsom Chides Those Who Crowd Beaches
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that progress toward reopening will be jeopardized if people do things like crowd beaches, which occurred over the weekend.
“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off, this virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts,” Newsom said.
The governor targeted beachgoers in Orange and Ventura counties, calling them an example of “what not to do.”
But Orange County officials pushed back, saying people did their best to keep a safe distance while enjoying themselves.
Huntington Beach, known as “Surf City USA,” and Newport Beach were the Orange County locations with the largest crowds.
Newport officials plan to meet Tuesday to consider shutting beaches for the next three weekends or closing roads leading to popular locations along the shore.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)