Thousands flock to beaches in California despite stay-at-home orders

Many people have flocked to beaches in California during a summer-like heatwave despite authorities urging them to avoid trips there and continue practising social distancing measures.

Thousands packed Newport Beach and Huntington Beach on Friday and Saturday, defying stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Gavin Newsom acknowledged many Californians would be tempted to gather outside as the state experienced hot weather.

But he tweeted: “CA can only keep flattening the curve if we stay home and practise physical distancing. You have the power to literally save lives.”

Newport Beach
Image: Many Americans flocked to Newport Beach in California

Police in Pacific Grove closed the Lovers Point Park and Beach because it became too crowded and people were not observing the restrictions.

And officers in San Diego said three people were arrested in Encinitas for violating health orders after they protested against beach closures.

Los Angeles city and county beaches, trails and playgrounds were closed, and officers on horseback patrolled those areas to enforce distancing rules.

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In Florida’s Volusia County, home to the well-known Daytona Beach, beaches have been opened for those wanting to walk, surf, bike or swim.

County manager George Recktenwald has warned people against gathering in groups.

Huntington Beach
Image: Huntington Beach was also busy

He said: “At this point in time, we’re still under the governor’s essential exercise order, so if you’re on the beach, you should be physically active. No sitting, sunbathing or hanging out with a cooler.”

But one resident said many beachgoers were not heeding the advice.

John Overchuck, 45, who lives on New Smyrna Beach, south of Daytona Beach, said: “I know they have rules and restrictions, but people aren’t listening.

“I walked on the beach 10 minutes ago and it’s packed. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

California was one of the first states to bring in lockdown measures. It has had more than 1,600 coronavirus-related deaths and over 42,000 confirmed cases.

 Huntington Beach, California
Image: Some wore masks on Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach, California
Image: While others did not

Elsewhere in the US, Georgia and Oklahoma have allowed salons, spas and barbershops to reopen.

And Alaska has cleared the way for restaurants to resume eat-in services, and for retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations. But some municipalities there have chosen to keep stricter rules.

In Colorado, salons, barbershops and tattoo parlours can open next Friday, with retail stores, restaurants and cinemas to follow.

Florida beach
Image: People in Florida have been told to only use beaches for exercise

However, some people are resisting the move.

Mary Ramirez will not be reopening her hair salon then as she believes there is not enough safety guidance and planning.

“I feel like we are like test dummies that they’re learning off of,” she said.

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Health experts say economies should not open up unless there is widespread testing and contact-tracing infrastructure in place to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

While some US states have eased COVID-19 restrictions, Hawaii has extended its stay-at-home order until the end of May.

And Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York – the worst-hit state – has repeated his warning that reopening businesses too soon was risky.

The US has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world.

More than 53,000 people have died in the country, representing over a quarter of all fatalities globally.

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