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Judge Orders Orange County's Beaches To Stay Closed — For Now

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People were seen gathering on the beach north of Newport Beach Pier on April 25, 2020. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
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Orange County beaches will remain closed despite objections from some residents and local officials.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered them shut them down in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, triggering protests and threats of lawsuits from officials in Huntington Beach and Dana Point.

Both cities wanted an immediate, temporary restraining order against the closures. But state Superior Court Judge Nathan Scott allowed the order to stand. He also ordered Newsom's legal counsel to show probable cause for the action. Another hearing is set for May 11.

The governor's order followed last week's heat wave, which brought thousands of people to Orange County's coastline. Beaches had remained open at that point, although many parking lots were closed to discourage visitors.

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Michael Gates, an attorney for the city of Huntington Beach, called the presence of CHP officers and state law enforcement "Orwellian," arguing the state did not have a rational basis for ordering the shutdown. Orange County supervisors also condemned the move yesterday as an unnecessary overreach.

But supervisor Doug Chaffee, who represents the inland cities of Brea, Fullerton and most of Anaheim, and who is the only Democrat on the board, says Newsom was within his authority to close the beaches because of the COVID-19 emergency.

He told KPCC's AirTalk he doesn't think that any legal action against the governor will prevail in court although a countywide closure may force all the beach cities to work together on a uniform policy:

"I don't think it's good for one city to have one standard and another a different one because then you get confused and you don't know what you can do and not do. So, hopefully, we can work to a solution where we can use the beaches to some degree."

To date, a total of 50 people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County, which has 2,537 known cases.

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