On July 2, the California Department of Public Health added Monterey County to the state’s COVID-19 watch list due to elevated disease transmission and hospitalizations. County officials also announced sweeping beach closures. This year, Fourth of July will feel quite different.
If Monterey County remains on the watch list for 3 consecutive days, the state will require the county to close all bars and pubs, as well as all in-door operations for restaurants, wine tasting rooms, movie theaters, museums and more.
For now, local and state beaches throughout Monterey County are closed for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Officials say the decision was a coordinated public health effort among Monterey Peninsula cities and California State Parks.
In the cities of Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove, the beaches are closed, but ocean activities are allowed. That means swimmers and surfers can walk across the sand to get to the water, but picnics, sunbathing and any activities on the sand are prohibited.
In the City of Pacific Grove, turn-outs along Ocean View Avenue are blocked and Lovers Point Park is closed. The Pacific Grove Rec Trail will remain open for walking, running and bicycling if people practice social distancing.
Pebble Beach has even stricter rules with no ocean activities allowed. 17-Mile Drive will be closed to tourist traffic except for those with a hotel or dining reservation.
It’s a different scene in Santa Cruz County. Last week, Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel lifted beach restrictions. Previously, beaches were closed except for water activities between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. Newel said she originally wanted to continue these restrictions through the holiday weekend, but said enforcement has become impossible because people are not willing to be governed.
The City of Santa Cruz is following the County’s lead and keeping its beaches open. Elizabeth Smith, the city’s communications manager, said Santa Cruz County’s infection rate is lower than the rate in Monterey County. Still, she’s hearing from displeased residents.
“Santa Cruz residents are really concerned.They don't want that progress to go away,” Smith said.
Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings is urging residents to take personal responsibility and keep the good behavior going, regardless of the holiday weekend.
“Santa Cruz has been doing a great job of kind of keeping COVID-19 cases down and really sheltering in place, using masks,” Smith said.
The City of Monterey is enforcing the state’s mandate to wear masks. Visitors to Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf and other business districts face a $100 fine for a first violation.