LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County beaches will reopen today but only for active use, and parking lots, piers and boardwalks will remain off limits.
The beaches have been closed for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they remained off limits even as the coastline reopened for active use in Orange County.
Los Angeles County beachgoers will also be restricted to active uses. In other words, activities such as sunbathing, sitting on the sand, setting up canopies, picnicking and fishing from the shore will all be off limits, according to the Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Beach parking lots will remain closed, as will the beach bike path and all piers and boardwalks, according to the county.
Beachgoers will have to wear masks and maintain a six-foot buffer between themselves and others under continued social-distancing requirements.
The city of Long Beach will also open its beaches with the same restrictions.
“The reopening of our beaches signifies a step towards more opportunities to enjoy our open spaces,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “I know that many in our community have been looking forward to more recreation and I'm urging everyone to continue practicing physical distancing so we can continue moving forward safely.”
Orange County's beaches are also open under active-use-only restrictions. However, many people were seen in recent days lying on towels and sunbathing in apparent defiance of the requirements. Authorities have said they would try to educate people in violation of the rules instead of issuing citations.
Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery urged people to adhere to the rules in Los Angeles County.
“I urge everyone to follow all Public Health Orders for your safety and your neighbors, and please use the beach responsibly by practicing physical distancing,” he said in a statement. “The beach will be open for active uses only, such as walking, running, surfing and swimming. If beach visitors do not follow all the rules, the state of California or Los Angeles County can once again close our beaches. By abiding by these measures, you will play an important role in keeping the beaches open.”
The COVID-19 death toll in Los Angeles County now tops the 1,600 mark after nearly four dozen more fatalities were reported, along with nearly 1,000 new confirmed cases of the illness.
The county Department of Public Health reported 45 additional deaths on Tuesday, although one of those fatalities was announced Monday afternoon by Long Beach, which has its own health department.
Long Beach reported three additional deaths Tuesday afternoon, while Pasadena, which also has its own health department, announced one more fatality. The new deaths raised the county's total number of fatalities to 1,617. The county noted that one death that had been reported earlier turned out to a person who did not live in the county, so that case was removed from the total.
The county also reported another 961 confirmed cases, while Long Beach reported 31 and Pasadena 36, lifting the overall county total to 33,247.
Of the 1,490 deaths for which ethnic data was available, 38% were Latinx, 29% white, 18% Asian, 13% black and 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Roughly half of the coronavirus deaths in the county have occurred at institutional settings, mostly skilled nursing facilities.
As of Tuesday, 658 cases have been confirmed at the Terminal Island federal prison in San Pedro, where seven inmates have died.
Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-San Pedro, took a private tour of the prison Tuesday morning, and said more needs to be done to protect inmates and staff. She said some inmates should be moved out of the facility.
“I think we need to get as many people as we can under home confinement,” she said. “Certainly there are folks with offenses that allow for that to happen.”
According to the Bureau of Prisons, the low-security facility houses 1,042 inmates. A representative for the union representing guards at the prison told KNX Newsradio that home-confinement would not be appropriate for the inmates, many of whom are sex offenders and drug offenders who would present a danger to the community.
The county's public health director, meanwhile, warned L.A. County residents that they will likely find themselves under some type of “Safer At Home” restrictions for another three months, barring a major change in the fight against the coronavirus.
Those lingering restrictions will persist in a county that has slowly begun loosening its health order and reopening retail stores and recreational amenities.
Speaking to the Board of Supervisors during a debate on extending an eviction moratorium, Barbara Ferrer, the director of Public Health, said some form of the county's Safer At Home health order will most likely remain in place “for the next three months” unless there is a major change in the fight against COVID-19.
“There's now no way, unless there was a dramatic change in ... this virus and the tools that we have at hand to actually fight against this virus, there's no way that we could in fact see us not needing to continue with a set of restrictions,” Ferrer said.
Such “dramatic change” would have to include a reliable vaccine, at- home daily testing for COVID-19 and treatment for the infection, she said.
“... Without good therapeutic medicines that are widely available and widely effective, without a vaccination and without the kind of ... home testing, rapid-test kits that would let every single person test themselves every single day ... what's left are in the fact the restrictions ... that form the biggest part of our community mitigation efforts, and the contact tracing that we do to make sure that we're able to isolate and quarantine people as appropriate," she said.
Photos: Getty Images