California Gov. Gavin Newsom has backed down from closing all beaches in the State of California, explaining to reporters and to local officials on Thursday that the closure would apply only to Orange County.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV 11 reported that Newsom intended to close all beaches and state parks in the state, effective May 1. In his daily coronavirus press briefing, he said the “hard close” would only apply to Orange County.
Asked whether a state police chiefs’ memo warning about the imminent statewide closure had been inaccurate, Newsom said: “Bottom line: that was their memo. That memo never got to me.”
Reporters — such as Bill Melugin of KTTV, who broke the story — suggested that Newsom was being less than honest about his policy and that he had, in fact, backed down.
Oh. So according to the San Diego mayor’s chief of staff, Governor Newsom was less than honest with us on TV a short time ago. https://t.co/BxHIP1srTM
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) April 30, 2020
Newsom says, as sources have confirmed, that his admin reached out to stakeholders on Wednesday to discuss beach closures. But talking to some familiar with that discussion, many believed a statewide action was imminent — contrary to the way he now portrays it.
— John Myers (@johnmyers) April 30, 2020
Newsom’s decision to single out Orange County caps a week of controversy over his policy on beaches.
On Monday, Newsom scolded beachgoers in Ventura and Orange Counties after media images circulated showing large numbers of people at Newport Beach and Huntington Beach during a warm weekend. Both counties had kept beaches open, unlike Los Angeles County and others.
Despite Newsom’s admonitions, Newport Beach decided Tuesday to keep its beaches open, albeit with more police onsite to enforce social distancing requirements. San Diego County also proceeded with plans to open beaches in the county for exercise, not sunbathing — though some towns kept their local beaches closed.
“Look what happened in Japan. Look what happened in Singapore,” Newsom explained on Thursday, warning that “When you pull back to quickly, you literally put people’s lives at risk.”
Asked whether any outbreaks of coronavirus had been connected to the large number of people on the beaches last weekend, Newsom did not answer, saying it “may be premature,” given that only four days had passed.
He said that while state officials expected that there might be some “seasonality” to the virus, people should not treat sunshine as if it were a disinfectant.
Newsom did not explain how he intended to enforce the “hard close,” other than providing guidance to local authorities.
Newport Beach tweeted that it intended to comply with Newsom’s beach closure:
We heard Governor Newsom's comments and are awaiting a copy of the actual order. The City of Newport Beach intends to honor the Governor's directive to close Orange County beaches.
— City of Newport Beach (@newportbeachgov) April 30, 2020
Some members of the public denied that the beaches had been crowded, and that the camera angle had provided a misleading picture:
Dems lied about Huntington Beach. This is a video from last Saturday at about 3pm. pic.twitter.com/sepDRMPCPG
— Diana C (@boxerbuddy4) April 30, 2020
Orange County is a traditionally Republican part of the state, though it has voted for Democrats in recent years.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.