Heat wave trumps coronavirus curve as Californians flock to the beach

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Thousands crowd California beaches despite stay-at-home orders' Coronavirus outbreak: Thousands crowd California beaches despite stay-at-home orders
WATCH: A heatwave brought thousands of people to the open beaches across Southern California over the weekend despite stay-at-home orders for people across the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic – Apr 27, 2020

Thousands of Californians flocked to beaches over the weekend, defying stay-at-home guidelines to surf, splash around and work on their tans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The beach rush arrived with California’s first summer-like heat wave of the season, as temperatures soared around San Diego and Sacramento on Saturday.

An estimated 40,000 people showed up at Newport Beach in Orange County on Saturday, and thousands were also spotted at Huntington Beach despite public health recommendations to avoid such non-essential activity, the Associated Press reports. Many also turned up at beaches in Ventura County.

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Photos and videos show large groups playing beach volleyball, holding picnics, tossing beanbags and generally ignoring state orders to stay at home so they won’t spread the COVID-19 disease.

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People play a beanbag toss game as they join thousands of beachgoers enjoying a warm, sunny day at the beach amid state-mandated stay-at-home and social-distancing orders to stave off the coronavirus pandemic in Newport Beach, Calif., on April 25, 2020. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

County officials said the beachgoers were largely obeying social-distancing orders, despite photo evidence suggesting the contrary.

“People are being very co-operative and observing the social-distancing rules,” Brian O’Rourke, lifeguard battalion chief for Newport Beach, told CNN.

The Newport Beach Police Department, which is in Orange County, did not make any arrests or hand out any citations on Saturday, a spokesperson told the L.A. Times.

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The crowds were unseasonably large, Ventura police Cmdr. Tom Higgins told the paper.

“After being cooped up, we understand people want to enjoy the outside,” he said.

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California has more than 41,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths, half of them in the Los Angeles area, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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Many beaches in the state have been closed, but some counties have left them open with tight guidelines.

“Basically, you must keep moving. No sunbathing, chairs, blankets, coolers, sunshade umbrellas,” a Ventura County statement said Friday. “You must keep moving [while] walking, running, surfing and swimming.”

On the opposite coast of the U.S., Florida opened its beaches up to the public earlier this month, despite outcry over the potential for spreading the coronavirus among large beach-going crowds.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Beaches in Jacksonville, Fla., reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic' Coronavirus outbreak: Beaches in Jacksonville, Fla., reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: Beaches in Jacksonville, Fla., reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic – Apr 18, 2020

Saturday’s beach rush could offer a preview of future tensions across the U.S. and Canada, as people become increasingly restless under social-distancing measures with the onset of the summer.

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“It’s a beautiful day,” Huntington Beach visitor Frank Feerini told KABC on Saturday. “How can you keep anybody in?”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from the Associated Press

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