LA County to close beaches for the 4th of July weekend
by Mark McDermott
The County of Los Angeles announced Monday afternoon that beaches will be closed the entirety of the 4th of July weekend due to a spike in COVID-19 cases that has brought the county’s total to over 100,000. The closure, which includes parking lots serving beaches, will begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday and be in effect until 5 a.m. next Monday morning.
“We had almost 3,000 reported cases just today,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn in a tweet late Monday afternoon. “We cannot risk having crowds at the beach this holiday weekend.”
The LA County Department of Public Health issued a new public health order, including a prohibition on fireworks displays, which will legally require the beach closures.
“Closing the beaches and prohibiting fireworks displays during this important summer holiday weekend was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s the responsible decision to protect public health and protect our residents from a deadly virus,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County Director of Public Health. “The Fourth of July holiday weekend typically means large crowds and gatherings to celebrate, a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19. We all need to take this virus more seriously and residents and business owners must do their part. 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.”
The Health Department today announced 2,903 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the single largest one-day case count since the pandemic began. Key metrics continue to show steep increases in community spread. The 7-day average of daily reported new cases of COVID-19 is nearly 2,000, an increase from the 1,379 average two weeks ago. There are 1,710 people currently hospitalized, more than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen in recent weeks.
In addition to the 2,903 new cases, Public Health has confirmed 22 new deaths. Eighteen people who died were over the age of 65 and four people who died were between the ages of 41 and 65. Eighteen people had underlying health conditions, including 17 people over the age of 65 and one person between the ages of 41 to 65. To date, Public Health has identified 100,772 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 3,326 deaths.
Forty-two percent of cases are now among individuals between the ages of 18 and 40, which likely factored into the decision to close beaches. Although younger people who become infected are less likely to die from COVID-19, they are also more likely to unwittingly spread the virus.
“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations signals that we, as a community, need to take immediate action to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death. Businesses must closely adhere to directives. For individuals, we are all still safer at home, but if you must be out, practice physical distancing and wear a cloth face covering at all times when you are around others. Our actions to slow the spread cannot wait – we need to do these actions now and for the weeks ahead in order to prevent even more serious illness and death.”
The announcement of the beach closure comes a day after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of bars in several California counties, including LA County. Across the state, infections have increased by 45 percent over the past 14 days, and hospitalizations have grown by 43 percent, bringing totals to 216,550 cases and 4,776 hospitalizations, with another 1,403 hospitalizations suspected due to COVID-19.
Public health officials drew a direct connection between the opening of bars on June 20 and the spike in cases, noting that more 500,000 people have since visited the county’s newly reopened nightlife spots. A county study derived from inspections found that 49 percent of bars and 33 percent of restaurants in the county were not adhering to social distancing protocols in the last week. Additionally, inspectors found that workers at 54 percent of bars and 44 percent of restaurants were not wearing face masks or shields.
“There are a number of businesses and individuals who have not followed the directives, and they’ve gone back to living like COVID-19 is not living in our community,” Ferrer said. “If you’re not part of the solution to slow the spread, you’re ending up being part of the problem.”