The heat wave cooking the Southland Friday and this weekend would ordinarily mean packed beaches, but the coronavirus crisis is putting a damper on those plans, and county and city authorities are warning people that the coastline remains off-limits and social-distancing orders remain in effect.
“We all have to remember that coronavirus means we must change normal behavior. For your safety, the beach is absolutely closed,” Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown said. “So are the beach bike path, Santa Monica Pier, the walkways near the beach and even the cliffs overlooking the beach at Palisades Park.”
The same is true throughout the county, with county and city beaches shuttered in an effort to ensure people avoid gathering in crowds that could spread COVID-19.
McKeown warned that Santa Monica police will be on the lookout for people trying to slip into the ocean or gathering with friends. And while they don’t want to write tickets, they will if they have to.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said the same is true for his officers.
“We’re asking people to exercise social distancing so that we can cut down this threat of the COVID-19,” Moore said. “To date, our efforts have been to advise, counsel and direct. And I have to say the vast amount to Angelenos have been compliant, and they have avoided those congregations. And when they’ve been approached by officers, they’ve honored their direction and guidance.
“As we come upon this weekend, and we see the increased temperature and we see other parts of this region opening their spaces, I know that there’ll be opportunities for people to think, `Why not here?’ and `Let’s just go out there.’ I’m going to ask everyone to exercise that social contract of our own responsibility and hold ourselves accountable and avoid those nonessential activities.”
He said residents can still go outside, but they need to avoid major common areas and crowds.
“Save the police the awkwardness of us having to admonish you and advise and direct you for something that you already know,” Moore said. “With that, our men and women can stay focused on public safety.”
The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, advised people not to get in their cars and drive to other counties that might have loosened restrictions along the coast, noting that they could still be exposed to the coronavirus then bring it back home.
Some beaches in Orange County, such as Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, remain open, although most parking lots are closed — making parking difficult if not impossible — and social-distancing requirements remain in force.
“It’s very important even with the good weather that people do not congregate together outside,” Ferrer said. “So enjoy the outdoors alone or with other members of your household. And this means please take a walk, go for a jog or sit outside in your yard and allow your children to be outside and enjoy this beautiful weather. But you need to do it as a household and not to congregate in places and spaces that are beautiful but will defeat our need for us to keep our distance still.”
The heat wave could prove extra difficult for people without air conditioning, particularly since the usual places residents can retreat — such as movie theaters or shopping malls — are closed due to the coronavirus crisis.
Both the city and county of Los Angeles opened cooling centers in particularly hot areas, but authorities noted that the facilities will be operated with social-distancing requirements in mind, potentially limiting occupancy. The centers will be open Friday and Saturday.