Orange County Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim told Orange County supervisors Tuesday that he would close down parking lots to all of the county’s parks and beaches to discourage visitors who have not been complying with the state’s social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 emergency.
The supervisors attempted to vote on the restrictions themselves after discussing the issue, as has been done in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, but there was concern about whether they could do so immediately and comply with Brown Act regulations governing open meetings.
Supervisor Andrew Do argued the county board has the right under the emergency because it has given notice at a prior meeting that action might be taken act the county’s parks system due to COVID-19, but there was no consensus about whether the board would be in the clear voting on a ban or restricted access.
So the board left it up to Kim to make a change and restrict access to the parking lots. Over the last weekend, throngs of visitors flocked to the beaches and often ignored social distancing requirements to stay at least six feet away from other people.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she had been receiving calls about “packed” bathrooms in the parks and beaches.
Supervisor Don Wagner said the board could just call an emergency meeting for Wednesday and comply with the Brown Act by giving 24 hours notice.
Some individual county beach cities are grappling with the issue, too.
Laguna Beach City Council members have decided to close beaches if they get too crowded. “The biggest issue and concern is with our beaches,” Mayor Bob Whalen said in a statement. “If social distancing is not observed, we will close the beaches.”
“I strongly urge individuals who are not residents to stay in your own communities and do not come to Laguna Beach to endanger yourself, your families, our residents or our first responders,” he added. “Everyone can take a walk and exercise outdoors in their own communities. Please do this for the health of everyone in our county, our state and beyond.”
He also encouraged his own constituents to stay home unless they have essential chores such as grocery shopping to do.
Newport Beach City Council members are expected to address similar issues at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night. In the meantime, Newport Beach officials closed all beachfront parking lots and piers in the city, according to public information officer John Pope.
On Monday, state parks officials announced they were taking steps to reduce crowds at the state’s parks and beaches.
State parks officials are working with local county and public health officials to restrict vehicular traffic to some parks. Rangers are encouraging visitors to maintain six feet of distance to help reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus. If these efforts fail then state parks officials will consider fully closing some parks.
Orange County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 30 on Monday, from 95 on Sunday, to 125.
Of the total, 43 were contracted by residents while traveling, 11 from person-to-person spread and 38 were “community acquired,” according to Orange County Public Health officials. Thirty-three are under investigation as to how the patients were stricken.
Seventy-three are men, 52 are women.
Seventy-two fall into the age range of 18 to 49; 32 are 50 to 64 years old; and 19 are 65 and older.
In one case, the age is unknown because information from the hospital sent to county officials was incomplete.
There have been 1,776 people tested, leaving county officials with enough tests for 1,438 people.