California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to close state and local beaches in Orange County, calling the images of huge crowds that occupied the beaches over the weekend "disturbing."
"Orange County has been on our list of health concern and they've done a wonderful job down there, I just think we can tighten that up a little bit. So we're going to have a temporary pause down there," Newsom said at a press conference on Thursday.
Newsom said beaches in the southern part of California, including those in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties, have raised alarm bells, including images of people who were congregating there and not following physical distancing guidelines. He said the state wants to work closely with local officials, and if they can create better guidelines, the beaches can "reopen very very quickly."
"My job as governor is to keep you safe, and when our health folks tell me they can't promise that if we promote another weekend like we had then I have to make this adjustment," Newsom said.
An additional 95 people died from Covid-19 on Wednesday, he said. The state saw a 5.2% increase in confirmed cases since yesterday for a total of 48,917.
"Why undo all the great progress? Let's move this state forward together," Newsom said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes later pushed back against Newsom's order, saying that it unfairly singled out Orange County beaches. Barnes said the order "is wrong and fails to recognize the sacrifice made by our 3 million residents," according to a tweeted statement on Thursday.
Previous reports before Newsom's order indicated he planned to close all of the state's beaches, which drew widespread criticism from some state officials. When asked what changed his mind on closing all state beaches, Newsom said that they "never did and this is exactly the conversations we were having."
Officials from other parts of California have spoken out against a blanket beach ban in California.
Sheriff William Honsal, who oversees Humboldt County in the northern part of the state, said that he strongly opposes the order and indicated in a tweet that he would not enforce it.
"If an order is issued that I believe violates our constitutional rights, I will not enforce it," the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office tweeted on Thursday.
Newsom said his office has received letters regarding the beach closures but said that his decision is guided on what local health officials think is appropriate and what's not.
"When you pull back too quickly you literally put peoples' lives at risk. People are literally dying because of decisions that were done without a real frame of focus on public health first," Newsom said. "That's what ultimately guides our decisions."
Santa Cruz county officials on Wednesday said they intend to close its beaches from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. due to overwhelming weekend beach crowds.
On Monday, Newsom criticized some southern California beachgoers who didn't follow proper social distancing guidelines or wore face coverings, NBC News reported.