LOS ANGELES >> California headed into the Fourth of July weekend Friday under classic sunny summer skies and new health orders that temporarily put many popular beaches off-limits and canceled fireworks shows in an effort to prevent runaway coronavirus infections.
A few surfers were in the water off Los Angeles’ famed Venice Beach and a few dozen people strolled the boardwalk or shoreline, but the normal Independence Day throngs were missing from the long expanse of sparkling sand.
“This is going to be a different summer and this is going to be a different July Fourth celebration for all of us,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned this week as the dramatic reversal of California’s early success against COVID-19 became increasingly apparent.
Some, however, were intent on trying to keep it a normal summer: Dozens of surfers caught the morning swells at Malibu’s Surfrider Beach despite the ban.
“There’s only so many sheriffs so, realistically, they can’t be everywhere all the time and some people are just going to break the law and break the guidelines of public sense, common decency and the recommendations of our trusted public health officials,” city spokesman Matt Myerhoff said.
With testing showing a rising COVID-19 positivity rate and increasing hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom has rolled back or limited some of the reopening of businesses in Los Angeles and 18 other counties encompassing nearly three-quarters of the state’s population.
Recently reopened bars, indoor restaurant dining and other indoor entertainment venues were ordered closed back down in those counties for at least three weeks. Traditional fireworks shows were canceled to avoid drawing crowds.
Where possible and permitted, the battered restaurant industry moved tables outdoors onto sidewalks or into streets in hope of cashing in on the normally lucrative holiday.
While beaches, fireworks shows and businesses could be regulated, authorities warned that ordinary gatherings were being identified as the source of COVID-19 transmission.
On the state’s north coast, far from population centers with millions of people, Humboldt County said Friday that about a quarter of its 144 cases were reported in the past two weeks.
“This has been driven largely by residents gathering and visiting between households both locally and while traveling, as well as by illness occurring in the cannabis industry workforce,” said Dr. Teresa Frankovich, the county health officer.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Elsewhere in Northern California, a few surfers were in the water Friday morning in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, where beaches and parking areas are closed through the weekend. Aside from a few residents out on walks, the sandy stretches were empty.
Half Moon Bay resident Lisa Zadek told KGO-TV she was relieved the beaches were closed for the holiday weekend.
“It’s been kind of scary the volume of people coming here,” she said.
Others felt the order was overbearing.
“I don’t particularly like it,” resident Joel Thompson told the TV station. “I think its a matter of government control, over controlling people.”
Some communities made creative efforts to keep the spirit of the holiday.
Napa asked residents to submit photos of their decorated homes and patriotically costumed pets for a city contest.
The city of Fremont was hosting a virtual “porch parade,” with judges awarding prizes for the best decorations.
Many cities were organizing livestreams of “virtual fireworks,” while the city of Gilroy planned to launch actual fireworks but “higher in the sky” than usual to accommodate social distancing.
The city told residents that anyone within 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of the launch at Gilroy High School would be able watch the show.
Requirements to wear masks in certain situations continued to generate controversy.
A McDonald’s employee in Oakland said she was grabbed, hit and slapped by a customer last weekend after telling him he had to wear a mask to pick up his order at a drive-thru window, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Maria Resendiz, 19, filed a complaint Thursday with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the incident.