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San Diegans get back to the beach — cautiously — on closely watched opening weekend

05/02/20

Read the full article by Morgan Cook and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña in the San Diego Union-Tribune here.

 

A quintessentially balmy Saturday presented the first key test for beachgoers after weeks of restricted access to the sand and waves.

It’s a test San Diego seems to have passed.

Thousands of beachgoers up and down the county coastline made tracks in the sand and played in the water Saturday, the first weekend since the region went on COVID-19 lockdown in March.

The vast majority were practicing social distancing and respecting prohibitions against sitting down, standing around, playing sports or laying out. The relatively few surfers in the water kept distance between one other, too.

“People are out and it’s definitely busy, but it’s nothing like Orange County, with the protests and everything,” Oceanside resident Bonnie Domingos said Saturday as she strolled on the beach near the Oceanside pier, watching her three young sons running and splashing at the edge of the surf.

After reports surfaced of people packing beaches in Orange County last weekend, there was indication Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom was considering shutting down beaches across the state. The possibility of forced closures came just days after San Diego had reopened its beaches. But in the end, he focused the closures in Orange County and praised San Diego and Los Angeles for their heightened vigilance in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

But it was also a warning: Follow local beach rules or risk being shut down like Orange County.

Law enforcement did not say if any citations were issued Saturday, but reiterated a general strategy to educate and warn before ticketing.

The governor’s announcement also prompted new fears among leaders in some North County cities that Orange County residents would come south instead and cause crowding that would lead to closures.

But that didn’t seem to be the case Saturday. All the people who spoke to The San Diego Union-Tribune said they were from San Diego and Riverside counties.