SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County has become the final county in Southern California to be placed on the state’s monitoring list after it saw a steady rise in daily coronavirus cases, which could lead to closures or new restrictions on businesses following the Fourth of July weekend.
Meanwhile, county beaches remain open this weekend amid beach closures in other parts of Southern California. Parking lots at state beaches will be closed through Sunday, however, as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order on Wednesday. Those include Cardiff, Leucadia, Moonlight, San Elijo, Torrey Pines State Beach, San Onofre, Carlsbad State Beach and Silver Strand.
On Friday, the California Office of Emergency Services sent a letter to the city managers of San Diego, Imperial Beach, Coronado, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside imploring them to also close their beach parking lots.
“At the time of writing, beaches under the jurisdiction of local governments within San Diego County are the only beaches without visitation restrictions throughout all of Southern California, and therefore are attracting thousands of residents from outside your coastal communities and creating significant potential for disease transmission, particularly in crowded restaurants, bars, retail, and hotels,” the letter stated. “… To protect the public health of San Diegans and reduce the high potential transmission of this deadly disease in San Diego coastal businesses, we write to request that municipal governments do not open beach parking lots for the July 4th holiday weekend.
“By keeping parking lots closed, we can help limit beach access in San Diego to San Diegans only, to protect the health of residents and reduce the high likelihood of disease transmission in surrounding San Diego restaurants, bars, and businesses. Closure of beach parking lots could discourage day-trips from other communities.”
San Diego’s Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell said in a statement Saturday that California officials didn’t give the city enough time to put in place a beach parking lot shutdown for the Fourth.
“The city of San Diego is closely following county guidance and working with health officials to encourage adherence to public health regulations,” Michell said. “The request to regional coastal cities to close beach parking lots on the Fourth of July came last night just a few hours before the start of the holiday, leaving little time to enact, enforce or notify the public.
“San Diego continues to require facial coverings and physical distancing at all locations, and this week voluntarily implemented restrictions on bars and restaurants to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Michell said. “As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we will continue to work with county and state health officials to protect public health and safety.”
The cities of Carlsbad and Oceanside said Saturday they are complying with the emergency services request. In addition to closing its beach parking lots, Carlsbad lifeguards and police officers will be providing masks to help reduce spread of COVID-19 on the city-owned beach, north of Oak Avenue to the Oceanside border.
Imperial Beach, Coronado, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas officials said Saturday their beach parking lots remain open.
The potential restrictions follow the county’s recent self-imposed closure of bars and a newly instituted 10 p.m. curfew for local eateries.
On Friday, lifeguard officials from Encinitas and Del Mar reported beach population estimates that were on par with or greater than populations from years past.
Encinitas Marine Safety Captain Larry Giles reported large crowds for the start of the holiday weekend.
“Our beach population today is about 30% to 35% more than it was the same day last year,” Giles said.
He said that not all beachgoers are maintaining social distance. He called the beach population a “mixed bag” of those remaining socially distant and those who are not.
County health officials said the rate of COVID-19 cases in the region surpassed the state’s threshold of no more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents. The county reported a rate of 112.8 positive cases per 100,000 residents Thursday, a number that increased from 103.8 per 100,000 just three days prior.
Health officials reported a total of 15,696 COVID-19 cases throughout the county on Friday, with 387 deaths. There were 1,849 hospitalizations, with 503 people in intensive care.
Of the 7,307 tests reported Friday, 7% returned positive. The 14-day rolling average of positive tests is 5.3%.
No new community outbreaks were reported Friday, lowering the one-week count to 21. The county is still well over the limit of seven, which San Diego County set for itself.
Now on the state’s monitoring list, several businesses could be forced to change the way they operate indoors by as early as Tuesday, and restrictions would remain in place for a minimum of three weeks. Businesses affected include restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, cardrooms, family entertainment centers, museums and zoos.