Southern California beaches reopen after holiday weekend closures as coronavirus cases surge

Beaches reopened in Southern California after county health officials say a total of 7,232 new coronavirus cases were processed since Thursday amid an explosion in the number of cases in L.A County and across the state.

Local officials closed beaches ahead of the holiday weekend to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. 


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The breakdown was as follows: Thursday had 2,643 cases; Friday, 3,187 cases; and Saturday, 1,402 cases, according to Los Angeles County health \officials. There were also 30 deaths in the county during that span, health officials said.

"We send our condolences and prayers to the families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19," said L.A. Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer. "You continue to be in our thoughts every day."

Officials with the county's Department of Public Health said data- processing systems are being updated. The improvements are beginning earlier than expected, but there is no reason to question the accuracy of previously released data, Jesus Ruiz, spokesman for the county's COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, told City News Service on Friday.

Health officials said that the latest figures, which include Saturday's, indicate that 1,947 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 countywide. That number excludes patients in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments. The figure is up from 1,889 on Wednesday, and continues an upward trend. It also echoes statewide figures, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing Thursday that hospitalizations across the state had increased by 56% in the previous two weeks.

With the new figures released Sunday, the county's overall coronavirus totals stood at 109,194 cases and 3,487 deaths.

The overall percentage of people testing positive for the virus in the county remained about 9%. County health officials said Wednesday that the daily average of positive tests over the past seven days was 8.4%, up from about 5.8% two weeks ago.

Newsom said positivity rates also continued to increase statewide, with the daily average over the past 14 days up to 6.3%, representing a roughly 37% increase over the past two weeks.

On Wednesday, county health officials issued a revised health order to come into compliance with requirements announced earlier in the day by Newsom. The governor ordered the closure of many indoor business operations, most notably eliminating indoor dine-in service at restaurants. Also barred were indoor activities at museums, zoos, aquariums and card rooms.

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Those restrictions will be in effect for at least three weeks, Newsom said.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl will introduce a motion, co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, that asks the county's Department of Public Health to develop a plan on how to fine businesses that ignore the county's coronavirus protocols and, if they continue to forgo public safety, to pull their licenses, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Los Angeles County had already ordered the closure of all beaches for the Fourth of July weekend, along with the cancellation of all fireworks displays. All bars in the county were closed by a governor's order last Sunday.

During the holiday weekend, health officials said they were increasingly concerned about people gathering for parties or family gatherings with people outside their own households, threatening to lead to even more infections.

"We're really at a pivotal point," Ferrer said. "If we can't find a way collectively to sort of minimize our exposure to multiple different family units, multiple different units of people that we're now back at work
with, we will continue to see the rise in cases. We've got to do something right now to sort of get us back to a more level ground."

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Questioned again about why beaches are closed to prevent gatherings but nothing was done to prevent massive protests against police brutality, Ferrer stressed that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to protest.

Health officials have not been able to trace any specific outbreaks of the virus to the protests of the past month, primarily due to the difficulty in tracing exact exposure sources for people who may have contracted the illness in a variety of locations. But Ferrer noted she has consistently stated that the protests were a likely source of coronavirus transmission, as is any location where large numbers of people are gathered for long periods of time without face coverings or social distancing.