Frustrated by Crowds, Coastal States Weigh What to Do About Beaches

By Patricia Mazzei, Shawn Hubler and Thomas Fuller.

MIAMI — The salty breeze and ocean waves have beckoned stir-crazy residents of the coast back to their beloved beaches, social distancing norms be damned.

But how to prevent beach blankets and lawn chairs from becoming new founts of coronavirus infection has become a flash point for governors in Florida, California and other coastal states, who must balance demands from constituents for relief from the escalating spring heat against the horrified reaction of the general public to photos of sweaty, swimsuit-clad bodies packed towel to towel.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California stepped in on Thursday to shut down the beaches in Orange County, rolling back earlier attempts at giving people there a chance to stroll along the shore while staying a safe distance away from one another. Broad swaths of sand were packed over the weekend with crowds, with many people flocking from neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego Counties, where the beaches had been off-limits.

“This disease isn’t going away,” Mr. Newsom said at a news conference, noting that the pandemic had claimed at least 95 lives in the state in the past 24 hours.