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California To Limit Beach, Park Access To Slow Coronavirus

People gathering in groups at La Jolla Shores Beach on March 22, 2020, despite a statewide shelter in place order.
Bennett Lacy
People gathering in groups at La Jolla Shores Beach on March 22, 2020, despite a statewide shelter in place order.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he would close parking lots at dozens of beaches and state parks to prevent the spread of coronavirus after large groups flocked to the coast and mountains to get outdoors on the first weekend since the state's stay-at-home order took effect.

Newsom reaffirmed he would like to use social pressure to get people to maintain a buffer around each other and is not inclined to have his stay-at-home rule enforced by police. But he said cutting off access to places where people congregated under sunny skies was intended to “help you help yourself.”

“Normally that would light up my heart to see tens of thousands of people congregating down in Malibu and other parts of our beautiful state,” he said. “One cannot condemn that, but one can criticize it. We need to practice common sense and socially distance.”


Newsom touted public-private cooperation to bring in medical supplies and open new hospital beds, including a Navy hospital ship destined for Los Angeles two Army field hospitals that have opened in Riverside and Santa Clara counties.

Still, Newsom said the state was short 50,000 hospital beds and needed to procure hundreds of millions of rubber gloves, masks and gowns for healthcare workers to protect themselves during an anticipated three-month surge in treating patients with the virus.

"We're talking in the magnitude of tens of millions, in some cases hundreds of millions of units of personal protective gear," he said. "It's going to take an heroic effort."

RELATED: Mayor Faulconer Closes All City Beaches, Parks and Trails

He discussed working with other governors to strategically leverage California's buying power for supplies while making sure the state doesn't exploit its size at the expense of smaller states.


Earlier in the day, Los Angeles officials announced plans to expand coronavirus testing, promising up to 5,000 tests a day by Friday, significantly ramping up an effort that has lagged nationwide amid the outbreak.

“The U.S. has fallen behind other nations in response to this pandemic,” City Councilman David Ryu said. "We need to take action ourselves. Los Angeles is not going to wait around.”

Public health officials re-emphasized the need for all but essential workers, or people shopping for food, getting medications or visiting the doctor, to stay home and keep a 6-foot (1.8-meter) distance from others in public.

Newsom's stay home order allowed residents to exercise, but he said they tested the limits by packing trails, bike paths and beaches over the weekend.

Local officials had already moved to close parking at the state's best-known beaches in Malibu, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco in effort to curb crowds. Parks in scenic Marin County, north of San Francisco, were closed and access was restricted to many of the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains that run through Los Angeles County.

Newsom's order extends to about 40 parks in five counties, including Topanga State Park in Los Angeles County, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego and Sonoma Coast State Park north of San Francisco.

To help combat an expected shortage of hospital beds as the virus spreads, the U.S. Naval hospital ship Mercy departed San Diego on Monday bound for Los Angeles to treat non-coronavirus patients. The 1,000-bed USNS Mercy is expected to arrive in less than a week, Capt. John R. Rotruck said.

“We definitely have a sense of urgency,” Rotruck said.

Doctors will be able to perform surgery in nine operating rooms and the ship will be able to treat intensive care patients.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will deploy eight Army field hospitals to the state with a 2,000-bed capacity to also treat non-coronavirus patients, announced Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. Two of those already were in place, Newsom said.

By midday Monday, there were more than 2,100 cases in California and 40 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.