LOS ANGELES (AP) – California’s counties that fail to implement health orders could lose state support, the governor warned when cases of coronavirus jumped, prompting a renewed shutdown of businesses and beaches heading into the Fourth of July weekend.
With hospital admissions and infection rates increasing, Govin Newsom has ordered three weeks of closure of bars, indoor restaurant areas and other indoor locations for 21 of 58 counties, including the two most populous, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Public health officials have urged people to follow social distance and masking requirements – and to stay home this holiday as large crowds can further drive the outbreak.
But law enforcement and other officials in some areas have publicly said they cannot or will not issue citations or sweeping violations against those who ignore the state directives.
While Newsom has acknowledged the difficulty in executing 40 million people, he warned on Friday that local governments could “jeopardize their eligibility for state funding” if they do not follow and enforce them.
The state budget that went into effect this week includes $ 2.5 billion intended to help local government pay for services needed due to the pandemic, but the money is dependent on following emergency health orders.
“We are in an unprecedented time,” the governor wrote in a letter to local officials, saying it is important to fight the pandemic “as a unified California.”
At the same time, many communities have canceled annual fireworks and restricted or closed beaches. The beach closures began Friday from Los Angeles County north through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. South of Orange County, hugely popular beaches such as Huntington and Newport would close Saturday and Sunday.
However, some were destined to try to keep it a normal summer: Dozens of surfers caught the swells on Malibus Surfrider Beach despite the LA County ban.
“There are only so many sheriffs so, realistically, they can’t be everywhere all the time, and some people will just break the law and break the guidelines of common sense, common decency and the recommendations of our trusted public health officials,” said city spokesman Matt Myerhoff.
San Diego County beaches remained open and saw tens of thousands of visitors on Friday. Many gathered in socially distanced groups when they did not splash in the shallows. But lifeguards said not everyone followed general security rules despite reminders of public address. In Encinitas, lifeguards provided free masks.
Some communities made creative efforts to keep the spirit of the holiday alive by offering live streams of “virtual fireworks.”
Napa asked residents to submit pictures of their decorated homes and patriotically dressed pets for a city contest. The city of Fremont hosted a virtual “porch parade”, with judges awarding awards for the best decorations.
But the authorities even warned that regular gatherings of families and friends have been identified as sources of COVID-19 infections.
On the state’s north coast, far from population centers with millions of people, Humboldt County said Friday that about a quarter of the 144 cases were reported in the past two weeks.
“This has been largely driven by residents who gather and visit between households both locally and during travel, as well as illnesses that arise in the cannabis industry’s workforce,” said Dr. Teresa Frankovich, the county’s health officer.
At the same time, California also began to put its teeth into the health rules of companies that are still allowed to work, such as limiting the number of customers and getting them to wear facial coatings.
About 200 state inspectors failed to apply the rules on Friday, and similar numbers will be out Saturday and Sunday, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Department of Emergency Services. About half comes from the control of alcoholic beverages and the rest from the Department of Occupational Safety and Health and other state permit units.
They are part of new “strike laws” from ten state agencies that Newsom on Wednesday said would focus on counties with most restrictions.
“We will go directly to those who lose their noses on public health and safety,” Ferguson said in a statement. The strike groups made 142 contacts with companies on Thursday, their first day of operations, Ferguson said, and issued seven citations: two in Kern County, three in Los Angeles County and two in Santa Clara County.
The state is also fighting an outbreak in its prisons. The virus is suspected of killing two more prisoners in death row on Friday at the San Quentin State Prison, where about 40% of those prisoners are now infected, corrections officials say. Two other convicted prisoners died earlier in the prison near San Francisco.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which are cleared up in two to three weeks. For some – especially older adults and people with pre-existing health problems – it can cause more serious illness, including pneumonia and death.
Thompson reported from Sacramento. Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker of San Francisco, Robert Jablon of Los Angeles, and AP photojournalist Richard Vogel of Los Angeles contributed to this report.