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Monday, April 27, 2020

SLO County warns residents not to gather in groups as crowds hit the beaches amid pandemic

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 2:22 PM

Temperatures rose to 80 degrees in San Luis Obispo County over the weekend, and to beat the heat, crowds of people made their way to area beaches.

Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins said there was an increased number of people in the city over the last weekend in April, however most were respecting social distancing guidelines.

click to enlarge PANDEMIC BEACH PARTY Crowds of people gathered in Morro Bay over the weekend, but city officials say many were adhering to social distancing rules. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LYNN SAYRE-CARSTAIRS
  • PANDEMIC BEACH PARTY Crowds of people gathered in Morro Bay over the weekend, but city officials say many were adhering to social distancing rules.
“Whether it was a guest here or in Pismo Beach, people were trying their best to just sit amongst themselves and not near other groups as is what’s the requirement,” he said.

While it’s unclear how many beach-goers were area residents or out-of-town guests, Collins said there are no “hard, fast travel restrictions.”

“We are not in martial law, so people can leave their hometowns even though they shouldn’t. And that’s the message we’ve been putting out pretty consistently is, ‘Now is not the time to visit Morro Bay,’” he said.

The message was passed along to hotels within city limits that remain open to essential workers and individuals who are assisting family members in need, Collins said. To oversee the influx of activity, educate, and answer questions, the city of Morro Bay had police officers, harbor patrol staff, and a code enforcement officer on hand.

Collins said he didn’t hear about police getting an exorbitant amount of calls due to concerns over social distancing or congregating, however he did receive concerns via email correspondence to the city. The city’s approach, Collins said, is education and voluntary compliance. Enforcement is the “worst-case scenario for those that are gross violators.”

Pismo Beach also saw large crowds over the weekend, both on the beach and at the nearby restaurants Cool Cat Cafe and Splash Cafe.

The county issued a statement on Sunday, April 26, after reports of group gatherings at local beaches and parks raised concerns. In the statement, County Health Officer Penny Borenstein said SLO County remains under the local and state shelter-at-home orders intended to limit group activity, unnecessary travel, and business functions to essential needs.

“We’re enjoying some really nice weather, and I, too, would like to be hanging out at the beach with my friends, but now is not the time to gather in groups,” Borenstein said in the statement.

County spokesperson Michelle Shoresman told New Times that SLO County continues to discourage people from gathering outside their individual family units.

“We hope that people will continue to get outside, enjoy the gorgeous weather we are having, but do so at a safe distance from others. We also ask that people, both locals and those coming to the area, observe the rules of each open space, beach, or other recreational areas they are visiting and respect the law enforcement officers, rangers, and lifeguards that are out there enforcing the rules and guidelines and trying to keep everyone safe,” Shoresman said. ∆
—Karen Garcia
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