Authorities across Southern California are struggling to contain the large holiday crowds on beaches, boardwalks and docks this weekend, eager for a possible new spike in Covid-19 cases.
But they face a restless public eager to have fun in the sun after more than a year of confinement, and they seem to have few tools at their disposal to enforce the use of masks and social distancing.
Images of hundreds of people largely unmasked huddled on the Santa Monica Pier or huddled around street performers on the Venice Boardwalk in recent days have raised concerns that spring break in the golden state could get out of hand. control, just as it has in Miami. Beach, Florida, and trigger a superpreader event.
While the launch of the vaccine in the region has increased significantly in recent weeks (about 50% of adults in Los Angeles County have received at least one injection), local public health officials are warning that it is too soon. for the public to lower their guard.
Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned people this week not to become “careless” when traveling and meeting other people.
However, that message has been clouded by a rapid easing of pandemic restrictions and by political leaders eager to deliver good news and revive the economy. Some theme parks reopened this week, and open-air bars and bowling alleys will be able to operate again in Los Angeles on Monday.
“Every metric that we are tracking locally is going in the right direction,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters in a optimistic news report this week, in which he made only a brief mention of the need to make spring break “a low-key event this year.”
Garcetti’s tone stands in stark contrast to that of Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who said she had a sense of “imminent death” amid rising infections in some parts of the country.
Local officials in Santa Monica saw similar omens last weekend, when more than 100,000 people visited the city’s famous pier without restrictions, and street vendors, who are not allowed to enter the pier, lit grills on mobile carts. , which represents a considerable fire hazard for ramshackle wooden structures.
“If a gas tank were to explode on the dock, it would be hell and a disaster,” said Council Member Phil Brock. “I was there for 45 minutes on Saturday night and didn’t see a police officer … It was supposed to be a peak application weekend, but there was no application.”
Santa Monica city leaders now plan to restrict numbers at the pier this weekend by closing access to newcomers at 7 p.m., three hours before closing. They also plan to deploy half a dozen “health ambassadors” who will remind dock visitors to cover their faces and offer masks free of charge.
However, city officials will not return to a system implemented last summer when visitors could enter the pier only at a single access point, and firefighters were strictly monitoring the numbers. They are also reluctant to instruct the police to issue fines for violating city rules on wearing masks. Those measures “are not our preference,” said the city’s deputy director, Anuj Gupta.
Police in other coastal communities popular with spring breakers (Venice, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach) have shown a similar reluctance to step into crowds or disrupt beach parties, in part because there are few rules governing behavior on the beach. open public spaces and elected officials. fear the political consequences of appearing clumsy.
However, the crowds on the beach have enraged local residents whose children have not been able to return to school in person..
Gupta, the Santa Monica official, said he had seen no evidence of sick people after visiting his city’s beaches. But he also acknowledged that if visitors from out of town got sick or infected others after returning home, there was no sure way to know.
“A certain complacency may have set in,” Gupta said. “But it is also incumbent on people to be aware of and adhere to health guidelines.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism