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LOS ANGELES, CA — Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to announce the closure of all California beaches and state parks starting Friday, according to a bulletin sent to police chiefs statewide.
The show of gubernatorial force comes after several Southern California communities opened their beaches this week despite backlash from Newsom, who called on residents to stay home until statewide shutdown orders are lifted. After tens of thousands of beachgoers crowded the coastline in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach over the weekend, Newsom said such scenes would likely spread the coronavirus and ultinately slow efforts to reopen the state.
Despite pressure from the governor to close the beaches, several municipalities from San Diego to Ventura County reopened their beaches with the notable exception of Los Angeles County, which is enduring the state's worst COVID-19 outbreak.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to announce the closures Thursday, according to Fox11, which obtained the law enforcement bulletin that is supposed to be sent to all California police chiefs notifying them of the closures.
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The bulletin reference the scene at Orange County's packed beaches over the weekend.
"After the well-publicized media coverage of overcrowded beaches this past weekend, in violation of Governor Newsom's Shelter in Place Order, the Governor will be announcing tomorrow that ALL beaches and all state parks in California will be closed, effective Friday, May 1st," the bulletin to police chiefs said.
"We wanted to give all of our members a heads up about this in order to provide time for you to plan for any situations you might expect as a result, knowing each community has its own dynamics."
Several Southland city leaders were critical of the decision Thursday.
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said Newsom has the power to close beaches in Orange County, but does not believe it is a wise decision.
"Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases, including mental health benefits," Wagner said. "Moreover, Orange County citizens have been cooperative with California state and county restrictions thus far."
Wagner called the governor's decision an "overreaction from the state (that) will undermine that cooperative attitude and our collective efforts to fight the disease, based on the best available medical information."
Newport Beach police Chief Jon Lewis and fire Chief Jeff Boyles issued a joint statement Thursday morning insisting that when crowds gathered at the city's beach last weekend, "the overwhelming majority of Newport Beach residents and visitors were families or practicing social distancing."
"What we observed from land and by air was the vast majority of beachgoers practicing social distancing," they said in the statement. "There were, in places, some clusters of people that were not social distancing. Throughout the day, our police officers and lifeguards patrolled the entire beach area to educate and remind those individuals of the necessity of physical distancing."
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took to Twitter Thursday morning to criticize Newsom's anticipated action.
"San Diegans have been following the rules set by our pubic health officials and lifeguards since beaches reopened this week," Faulconer wrote. "A sudden state ban on every single beach -- regardless of the facts on the ground -- sends the wrong message to regions where people are acting responsibly."
Newsom has been insistent that residents continue adhering to social- distancing requirements, saying in recent days that the state could begin lifting some restrictions in "weeks, not months" if people continue to stay at home. But he said that could change quickly if people get complacent.
"We can undo our progress in a very short period of time," Newsom said Wednesday. "What's taken us almost two months to produce in terms of getting stable numbers can be unwound in a period of just a week or two. Why put ourselves in that position when we are just a week or two away from significant modifications on our stay-at-home order where we can begin a phase two of beginning to reopen sectors of our economy that are low risk, but do it in a thoughtful and judicious way."
City News Service contributed to this report.