Coronavirus reopening: Calif. Gov. Newsom lifts ban on two Orange County beaches

Announcement came as California prepares to enter phase 2 of reopening plan

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom said beaches in San Clemente and Laguna Beach will be re-opened as the state prepares to enter phase 2 of its coronavirus re-opening plan by the end of the week.

Newsom thanked local officials and law enforcement for putting together "an outstanding plan" to reopen beaches safely.

"We worked with them on guidelines and procedures to basically enforce a reopening that is phased and appropriate to local needs, local conditions," Newsom said. "And so with deference to their plans and proposals, which are unique and distinctive in both cases, we signed off on those and we immediately lifted."

San Clemente’s beaches opened Monday afternoon for active use such as surfing or walking while Laguna Beach is starting with weekday morning hours for getting exercise.

“We appreciate the governor’s willingness to work with us to provide a responsible, gradual approach to reopening all beaches in Laguna Beach for active recreation,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said in a prepared statement. “This will allow people the opportunity to walk, jog, swim and surf and get some fresh air and exercise on a limited basis, but not congregate or gather in large groups.”

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News of the reopening comes less than a week after Newsom ordered a “hard closure” of all Orange County beaches after seeing "disturbing" images of packed crowds with some people who were not adhering to social distancing measures.

“Orange County has been on our list of health concerns 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 Thursday. "If we can get some framework and guidelines to get this right, we can reopen very, very quickly but we've got to make sure we can get this right."

"My job as governor is to keep you safe," Newsom added. "If we promote another weekend like we had, then I have to make this adjustment."

Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the state's response to the coronavirus during his daily news briefing April 9, 2020, at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File )

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Newport Beach councilman Kevin Muldoon has filed a lawsuit against Newsom, saying the order violates Newport Beach resident's rights.

"I believe the governor did make a huge error in singling out Orange County," Muldoon told FOX Business' Melissa Francis on "After the Bell." "I think that is something he should retract immediately."

He believes Newsom opened San Clemente and Laguna Beach because he is starting to "feel the heat" and is looking to "back out of the predicament" after making a snap judgment.

"I believe the governor was quick to snap at judgment based on a photo that didn’t accurately depict the residents of Orange County," Muldoon said. "It was very odd that the governor would take such a micromanagement interest in a city like ours when he’s not doing so with the cities up and down the state, only the cities in Orange County."

Muldoon said there were "some pictures that were taken from the ground level that made it look like there were a lot of crowds and they were close" but that it was "clear that most people were practicing social distancing" based on aerial photos of the beaches from local law enforcement.

A surfer falls over a wave Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Newport Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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Newsom said Monday that some regions and counties in California may be able to go further into phase 2 depending on their individual situations.

"We are also allowing, with considerations of additional criteria, the ability for containment plans and protection plans to be put into place in regions and counties throughout the state of California, where we recognize there are different conditions and we believe different criteria should be put into place," Newsom said.

Counties will have to meet criteria established by the state based on their capacity for testing, tracing, physical distancing and sanitation, and their ability to protect the most vulnerable residents, including seniors and congregate facilities as well as incarcerated and homeless individuals.

"If those criteria can be self-assessed, self-certified by the local health official in concurrence with the county supervisors...we will allow additional movement through Phase 2," Newsom added.

There are more than 1.1 million confirmed cases and more than 68,000 deaths in the United States, according to the latest update from Johns Hopkins University.

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