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By Shawn Raymundo and Zach Cavanagh

County-operated beaches and parking lots will be closed over the holiday weekend in an effort to slow the latest coronavirus outbreak, OC Parks announced on Thursday, July 2.

From Saturday, July 4, to Sunday, July 5, the county-operated beaches, including Capistrano Beach, Salt Creek Beach, Baby Beach, Poche Beach and Strands Beach, and their parking lots will be closed, according to a county press release.

County officials on Thursday explained that the decision to close the beaches was out of concern of being overwhelmed by visitors who would be turned away from the shores in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, which closed their beaches earlier this week.

“I think the reason why we are closing for this weekend only, with Ventura closing, Los Angeles closing their beaches, we were very concerned that we would be overwhelmed,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim said during a press conference.

Kim added that with the cities of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach opting to close its shores for the holiday weekend, county officials believed it prudent to have the closures aligned.

Parking lots at state beaches will also be closed from Friday, July 3, through Sunday, July 5. While an official decision hasn’t been made as to whether the state will also close its beaches, Kim said he expects the state to also align itself with nearby cities.

“In discussions, I’ve had several times over the last two days with staff at state parks, my understanding is they are planning to model and align their beach operations consistent with the neighboring cities,” Kim said, adding, “My expectation is that we will see the state operate its beaches similar to what is happening with neighboring cities and county beaches.”

The move to close the beaches ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, which is sure to attract crowds of beachgoers, followed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Wednesday, July 2, to tighten up restrictions in several counties including Orange County.

Amid the latest surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations over the past two weeks, Newsom ordered all bars to close in Orange County and 18 other counties. He also put a moratorium on indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and cardrooms. These businesses can, however, still operate outdoors.

The county, on Thursday, reported a test positivity rate of 12%, surpassing the state’s threshold for elevated disease transmission of 8%. It also posted its largest number of hospitalized cases to date with 556 people being treated at hospitals in Orange County. More than 190 of those individuals required treatment in intensive care units.

More than 650 coronavirus cases were added to the county’s running tally, bringing the total number of cumulative cases to 15,065. An estimated 7,862 people have recovered from the virus, according to the county’s latest data.

Cases in the three South County cities continued to climb with San Clemente reporting a total of 116 cases—nine more than what had been recorded the previous day. Total cases in Dana Point grew to 61, up from the 57 the day before, while San Juan Capistrano reported a total of 93 cases, the county’s daily report showed.

To date, 354 people have died from COVID-19 as nine more deaths were added to the total Thursday.

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