With a heat wave in the forecast, Memorial Day weekend is going to pose a challenge in the fight against the coronavirus.
Can Southern California residents enjoy the new freedoms as stay-at-home orders are eased, such as access to parks and beaches and in some place dining and shopping, while also maintaining social distancing so the coronavirus does not spread?
Officials are hoping rules and public urging will keep people safe.
“Many of our beautiful outdoor spaces are open and we can enjoy them as we practice physical distancing and wear our cloth face coverings when we’re around other people,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “The virus hasn’t changed. It’s still relatively easy to become infected, particularly if you’re not taking precautions.”
Parks, beaches, trails
Many Southern California parks, beaches and trails will be open, but officials are urging people to keep their distance and not overcrowd these outdoor spaces.
With the lure of a three-day holiday weekend, some destinations are making more room for Memorial Day revelers, while others are clamping down.
Unlike some trails that were shuttered under Ventura County orders, the popular Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls Trail in Ojai Valley never closed. But in recent weeks, crowds have been gathering in droves, filling the parking lots and leaving behind trash, said Los Padres National Forest spokesman Andrew Madsen.
In the Santa Monica Mountains, park rangers are encouraging visitors to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing on newly reopened trails.
But in the San Bernardino National Forest, officials will close a 2.5-mile stretch in Deep Creek in the Lake Arrowhead area for roughly a year to deal with chronic overcrowding. The creek’s swimming holes, especially at Aztec Falls, have drawn crowds in past years that have created growing traffic and parking issues on the narrow roads.
Four San Francisco parks are being outfitted with painted circles to remind people to stay away from each other when they are outside during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ten-foot white circles, each eight feet apart, were painted on the grass of Mission Dolores Park on Wednesday, and Little Marina Green Picnic Area and Washington Square on Thursday. Crews were completing Jackson Playground on Friday.
Los Angeles County officials announced that beach bike paths and some beach parking lots will reopen.
The county reopened its beaches a week ago but kept beach parking lots, bike paths, piers and boardwalks closed.
Now, parking lots at Dockweiler State Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, Zuma Beach and Surfrider Beach will open at partial capacity. Santa Monica lots and most beachside public parking spots in coastal communities will remain closed.
Beachgoers are still not allowed to sunbathe, grill or lounge in the sand. The shoreline is open only for active recreation, including surfing, swimming, running and walking.
Visitors also must continue to wear face coverings when visiting the beach.
Shopping and dining
The vast majority of California’s 58 counties have now been approved to expand retail operations as their virus conditions improved, with more expected to reopen their economies in the coming days.
But officials expect the progress to be slower in Los Angeles County, which accounts for nearly 60% of the state’s total deaths and almost half of the more than 90,000 confirmed infections.
Most counties have received approval to progress more quickly through Phase 2 of the state’s reopening road map — meaning they can open restaurant dining rooms and more retail businesses for in-store shopping.
The list of counties that can ramp up their reopening efforts now includes San Diego (the state’s second-most populous), Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Riverside and Ventura.
On the heels of a two-day spike in coronavirus-related deaths in Orange County, officials Friday affirmed that they are pushing forward with a proposal to allow more businesses to reopen.
The county submitted its final documentation Thursday night outlining hospitalization rates, testing capacity and other benchmarks that state officials say need to be met before the region can move deeper into Stage 2 of reopening.
If the state agrees, restaurant dining rooms could welcome patrons and retail businesses would be permitted to open for in-store shopping with certain modifications. Hair and nail salons, gyms, bars and theme parks would remain closed.
Orange County leaders had expressed hope earlier in the week that more retailers would be able to reopen before the Memorial Day holiday. As of Friday afternoon, the county had not yet received approval by the state to move forward.
Los Angeles County officials also gave car parades and other drive-through celebrations the green light Friday.
A week ago, public health officials warned against marking milestones like birthdays and graduations with car drive-ins.
Now, as in-person gatherings remain off-limits, county officials will permit car-parade celebrations. However, bicycles, motorcycles, convertibles with open tops and vehicles without doors, such as golf carts, are not allowed to participate. Vehicle occupants must wear face coverings if the windows are down.
Those who wish to host a car parade must comply with requirements set by the state’s stay-at-home order, which include security measures and social and physical distancing.
While temperatures along the coast are expected to linger in the mid-70s throughout the weekend and early into next week, the mercury will rise significantly beginning Monday — into triple digits in some areas — in the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire, said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
The heat wave is expected to peak Wednesday, but warm weather will likely linger a while, Boldt said.
“These high temperatures are going to continue pretty much through next week,” he said. “We might see a little relief toward Friday and Saturday, but it seems like the rest of May is going to be warm.”