L.A. County beaches will close Fourth of July weekend after coronavirus spike

Jaclyn Cosgrove, Colleen Shalby, Alejandra Reyes-Velarde

Los Angeles County will close its beaches Friday and ban fireworks displays in anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday, a move health officials say is necessary in light of an alarming spike in coronavirus cases.

Although it was a "difficult decision to make," the closures are crucial because so many people gather to celebrate, "a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

“We all need to take this virus more seriously and residents and business owners must do their part," Ferrer said. "Physical distancing isn’t optional, wearing a face covering isn’t optional, spending time only with those you live with isn’t optional — these are requirements in the Health Officer Order and are the tools we have to protect each other, our families and those most vulnerable in our communities."

All public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths "that traverse that sanded portion of the beach" and beach access points will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. The ban on fireworks displays applies only to the Fourth of July weekend. A new health officer order will be issued Monday evening, Ferrer said.

“I know how much we look forward to this time of year," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a Monday evening news briefing. "But not this year. This year we have to think about saving lives to protect what we have in this country ... and to make sure our economy doesn't take more steps backward.”

Garcetti said that at the current rate of spread, Los Angeles will revert to numbers reached at the height of the pandemic in about a week. Over the next week, the county's infection rate will increase, from one of every 140 people being infectious to one out of every 70 people. At the same time, hospital capacity is decreasing.

Garcetti also said there is a "hard pause" on reopening any additional businesses, including concert halls, theme parks, movie theaters and bars.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered seven counties, including Los Angeles, to immediately close any bars and nightspots that are open

“It's been clear around the country these are big public health threats," Garcetti said of bars. "These are already dangerous clusters. These are regularly the spaces where spread is happening. It seemed clear what was coming.”

The beach closure does not apply in Long Beach, which has its own health department.

"Due to rising #COVID19 cases all @CountyofLA beaches will be closing again temporarily this weekend, July 3rd through 6th. We had almost 3,000 reported cases just today," county Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a tweet. "We cannot risk having crowds at the beach this holiday weekend."

Los Angeles County confirmed 22 additional coronavirus-related deaths and 2,903 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the largest single-day number of new infections the county has reported since the pandemic hit the U.S.

The daily tally brings the total number of coronavirus cases in L.A. County to more than 100,000.

The alarming spike in cases is not just the result of increased testing, Ferrer said earlier Monday, but instead is proof that community transmission has definitively increased.