For Californians, the latest Coronavirus flash point is just around the corner — Labor Day. Previous holiday weekends this summer – Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Fourth of July – have proven to draw crowds to the beach, especially in the presence of a heat wave as there was this Fourth of July. Well, the heat wave this weekend should prove to put the Fourth of July hot flash to shame, with temperatures expected to reach into the hundreds in inland parts of the Bay Area and up to 115 degrees in parts of L.A. and Orange County, a surefire recipe for crowded beaches.
In Pacifica, recent crowded beaches drew intense public backlash, following a photo that was widely shared online (below). Locals claimed Saturday Aug. 15 was the busiest they’ve ever seen Pacifica beaches, and were appalled at the lack of masks and distancing. On the flip side of the debate, others have pointed to the fact that telephoto lenses have a tendency to compress backgrounds and can make objects (or people) appear closer than they actually are. Furthermore, health experts have pointed to the unlikeliness of transmission in outdoor scenarios like the beach, even an overcrowded one. “Based on what we know about superspreader events globally, they’re not happening at the beach,” said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s not zero risk, but that’s not where most or even much transmission – if any – is happening.”
— SFGATE (@SFGate) August 31, 2020
What officials seem most worried about are family gatherings where guards are down. With this heat wave and smoke from the recent fires, events might be held inside. As reported by ABC7, L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said, “We know for sure that our holiday gatherings and parties can result in increases in transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths.” At the weekly L.A. Coronavirus press briefing, he urged people to avoid crowds and remain outdoors when gathering with others, suggesting beaches as an option: “There is so much more to do together in our beautiful county. Explore a trail or have a picnic at one of our beautiful beaches early in the day… Avoid crowds and be flexible and willing to change plans or move to a different location if you find yourself in a crowded area.”
Further up the coast, such beach plans might not be an option. According to reports, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Monterey County beaches will be partially closed with some recreational activities allowed. This may actually come as a boon to surfers who want to hit the water without dealing with crowds stuffing area parking lots and access points. A bit further north in Pacifica, however, beaches and beach parking will be completely closed to visitors.