So Many People Went To Newport Beach That It Might Get Shut Down

People gather on the beach north of Newport Beach Pier on Saturday. Too many people. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

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Orange County decided to keep its beaches open (but with parking lots closed), and people decided they would go there. But people got too excited about getting some sun, packing beaches this weekend, and now Newport Beach is looking at shutting things down.

The Newport Beach City Council's holding a special meeting Tuesday afternoon on the city's response to coronavirus, and one of the items on the agenda is possibly closing its beaches down on the weekend. One proposal being considered: The beach would remain open during the week, but close down Saturday and Sunday for the next three weeks.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his daily coronavirus press conference on Monday that California is weeks, not months away from starting to reopen — but that being able to reopen requires continued physical distancing.

"We can't see the images like we saw, particularly on Saturday in Newport Beach and elsewhere in the state of California," Newsom said.

People at Corona del Mar State Beach on Saturday in Newport Beach. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

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Most of the people at the beach were practicing physical distancing, according to Newport Beach, but the huge number of visitors — while parking lots remain closed — meant huge numbers of visitors parking in local neighborhoods, including many from outside the area. That goes against guidance from California State Parks to stay close to home — "This is not the time for a road trip to a destination park or beach."

An alternate plan being considered by the city council: shutting down the roads leading to popular beach spots at the Peninsula and Corona del Mar.

People at Little Corona del Mar Beach on Saturday in Newport Beach. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

"The beach was completely packed full of people," a caller who identified himself as an ER doctor told KPCC AirTalk host Larry Mantle. "It was just like the Fourth of July. I'd never seen so many bikes parked at the end of the street."

While people were mostly social distancing in their groups, nobody was wearing masks, the caller said.

"And if people keep staying out at the beaches on the weekend like this, we're going to have a second peak," the caller said.

But, he added, he would be OK with the beach being open if people are good about physically distancing.

"I think it's actually one of the better places to be able to social distance, and get some relief from your house," the doctor said.

Newport Beach notes that state and county public health officials, as well as the California Coastal Commission, have encouraged them to keep beaches open. The city says keeping beaches, parks, and other open spaces accessible is important for its residents' mental and physical wellbeing.

As of Sunday, Orange County had 2,074 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 94 of those from Newport Beach.

And if restrictions are put in place at the beach, don't go making alternate plans to ride a Ferris wheel — the Orange County Fair was also just officially cancelled.

This story has been updated.

Correction: Newport Beach never fully shut down beaches, though parking lots and some surfing locations have been closed.