As a weekend of record-breaking heat approaches, Los Angeles County health officials made a final plea today for residents to celebrate the Labor Day holiday safely and without large parties or gatherings.
The county confirmed that beaches will remain open over the holiday weekend, despite concerns about large crowds that might flock to the sand to escape the heat wave expected to bake the Southland through Monday.
But officials with the county Department of Beaches and Harbors warned that health restrictions remain in place, meaning beachgoers must practice social distancing and wear face coverings when not in the water, eating or drinking.
That’s right, Los Angeles residents are supposed to wear face masks while at the beach. While masks are rarely spotted at the beach these days, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reopening guidelines for public beaches explicitly state PPE must be worn.
And requirements for social distancing and face coverings will be enforced at beaches over the holiday weekend, say officials, with some coastal cities prepared to issue fines for violators.
And if crowds get too large and people aren’t adhering to the guidelines, the beaches could be cleared, said L.A. County officials.
In Manhattan Beach, for example, people who fail to wear masks can face fines beginning at $100 and ranging up to $350. In Santa Monica, violators could be fined as much as $500.
County Department of Beaches and Harbors officials also emphasized that barbecues and bonfires are prohibited at the beaches and in beach parking lots.
“We cannot stress enough the importance of following the public health guidelines,” Beaches and Harbor Director Gary Jones said in a statement. “It is absolutely imperative that beachgoers avoid crowds. If the beaches get too crowded, we may be forced to close them again.”
In Santa Barbara, for instance, passive activities such as sitting or sunbathing are prohibited on city beaches.
L.A. county officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of coronavirus setbacks experienced following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, which led to dramatic spikes in virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. All three of those metrics have been trending downward in recent weeks in the county, and health officials have been making pleas for the past two weeks that residents avoid Labor Day parties or gatherings with people outside their own households.
“I believe it is possible to celebrate Labor Day without repeating our [past] failures if everyone understands how much depends on individual actions we each will take,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Please have fun without exposing others or yourself to COVID-19. This is not the time or the place for parties or gatherings. We will all win if we each do our part.”
There were 47 new deaths reported by the county Department of Public Health on Friday, along with four more announced by the Long Beach health agency, increased the countywide death toll since the start of the pandemic to 5,981.
The county also announced 1,439 new confirmed coronavirus cases, while Long Beach announced 37 more cases and Pasadena added 13. The cumulative number of cases countywide stood at 246,457 as of Friday.
The number of people hospitalized in the county continued its steady decline, dropping below the 1,000 mark to reach 992. County officials noted that figure is a 50% drop from the early August totals that topped 2,000.
City News Service contributed to this report.