Beaches have been closed since late March to slow the spread of coronavirus. (Madeleine Pauker)

Santa Monica State Beach and other Los Angeles County beaches will reopen Wednesday, officials announced Monday afternoon.  

Beachgoers will be allowed to surf and swim in the water and walk and run on the sand if they are wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, officials said.

But visitors will not be permitted to lie or sit on the beach, bike or play sports. Picnicking, canopies and coolers will be prohibited.

Beach parking lots, bike paths, piers and boardwalks throughout the county will remain closed.

Currently, L.A. County is in phase two of the five-stage roadmap to recovery which allows florists and some retailers to offer curbside pickup only, car dealership showrooms to reopen with appropriate physical distancing and infection control measures, and trails and golf courses to reopen with pro shops remaining closed to the public.

Officials surveyed businesses this weekend to determine if physical distancing and infection control measures were being followed. Of the 410 businesses surveyed, 162 were in violation of the health officer order because they were allowing customers into stores, not following physical distancing measures and not requiring customers to wear cloth face coverings.  

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said L.A. County is basing decisions regarding reopening on health care figures such as infection rate, mortality and the ability of local hospitals to meet the needs of residents. 

Ferrer said decisions for L.A. County would be based on Los Angeles circumstances and even if the state allows some kinds of activity, Los Angeles would not automatically open businesses and public spaces if doing so is deemed unsafe.

“Literally half the cases and half the deaths are here in L.A. County right now, so we have to pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in our own county,” she said. “We’re the largest county, we have the highest density areas in the county, we have the most people in the county, we have the most businesses in the county and we have some conditions that create more risk in terms of our vulnerable populations.”

She said the county’s goal remains the same: to preserve hospital capacity and prevent unnecessary deaths. 

The first measurement is derived from hospitalization rates, the number of people in intensive care and by tracking available equipment, such as ventilators. 

“We don’t want to see significant increases in the rates of mortality and our mortality rate,” she said. “We need that to remain relatively stable and hopefully at some point in the near future, we’d like to see a decline.”

Ferrer said the county has not changed its criteria for decision making but acknowledged that the situation is evolving.

“I think what we’re trying to do is, along with everybody else in the country, is move into a new phase that we’re calling our recovery journey,” she said. “(But) very slowly, so that it doesn’t result in what we have successfully avoided here in the county, which is that huge peak.”

She said that journey will depend on the ability of residents to adapt as necessary. 

“So again, we’re going to go slowly,” she said. “We, like everyone else, are anxious to begin this recovery journey and be on our way. But we only can do this with everyone’s cooperation. It will be impossible without that in a county this large.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health confirmed on Monday 39 new deaths and 591 new cases of COVID-19, noting that the results would be out of step with past updates due to number of labs that close over the weekend. To date, Public Health has identified 32,258 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 1,569 deaths.

Santa Monica had 209 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday, an increase of 13% over the last week. Eleven residents had died from COVID-19 as of Thursday, the last day the data was available.

There were 140 confirmed cases and 19 deaths among residents and staff at six Santa Monica nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The largest outbreaks continue to be at Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab, the Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and Ocean Pointe Healthcare Center.

matt@smdp.com

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