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Pacifica police boot hundreds from Linda Mar Beach over coronavirus restrictions

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A wave of out-of-town visitors kept police in the San Mateo County city of Pacifica busy last weekend and led the community's mayor to consider closing local beaches.

It's a concern facing coastal areas across the state as stay-at-home orders issued to stem the spread of the coronavirus clash with the need for warm-weather pilgrimages to the shore. Amid the global pandemic, health officials want residents to resist the urge to hit the road to beat the heat.

Pacifica, like all of San Mateo County, is under coronavirus restrictions. Residents there are not allowed to travel more than five miles from their homes for outdoor recreation.

But that didn't stop crowds from flocking to Linda Mar Beach. From Friday through Sunday, the Pacifica Police Department said officers ordered 275 people off the beach after learning they had strayed outside the permitted buffer.

"While Pacifica is normally a visitor-friendly area with its beautiful beaches and trails, the city takes this health crisis and shelter-in-place order seriously," Police Chief Daniel Steidle said in a statement. "Those found in violation are subject to parking citations and/or criminal arrest."

Capt. Chris Clements said Thursday that the department was "alarmed by the number of people who had violated the order to come to our local beaches and hiking trails last weekend."

Along with continuing to keep beach parking lots closed, Clements said the department has posted no-parking signs in nearby neighborhoods and "will again have additional officers on duty assigned to patrol the beaches and trailheads throughout the weekend."

"Our goal is to educate visitors about the restrictions in place in San Mateo County and gain voluntary compliance with the health officer's orders," he said.

Although Pacifica wishes to follow county health guidelines while allowing safe local access to its beaches, "the data we've collected and the enforcement we've had to take suggests many are not taking these orders seriously," city Mayor Deirdre Martin said in a statement Monday.

"This is alarming because unsafe conditions are occurring and, as a result, the city, in coordination with the state, may be left with no choice but to close the beaches entirely to everyone unless conditions improve," she added.

State and local health officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of residents abiding by orders to stay home as much as possible and to keep their distance from others when they do venture outside.

While officials say doing so has helped stem the spread of the coronavirus and kept local healthcare systems from being overwhelmed by a dramatic spike in patients, the number of confirmed infections continues to climb in many areas of the state.

San Mateo County had confirmed 966 coronavirus infection cases as of Wednesday. Officials there also announced 11 new coronavirus-linked deaths, raising the county's total toll to 39.

Among the victims was 88-year-old Donald Kennedy, a former president of Stanford University who also led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He died at a care facility in Redwood City of complications of COVID-19.

Santa Clara County reported six new coronavirus-linked deaths Wednesday, for a total of 94. The county has had the most confirmed coronavirus infections in the Bay Area — 1,962 — but has seen the growth in its case count level off in recent days.

As of Thursday morning, Alameda County had confirmed 1,280 cases and 45 deaths. Those numbers were 1,302 and 21, respectively, in San Francisco; 763 and 22 in Contra Costa County; and 203 and 11 in Marin County.

With warm weather on tap for the weekend — parts of the Southland could see record-high temperatures over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service — some officials have expressed concerns that out-of-town visitors may flock to the coast to escape the heat wave.

In a letter this week, Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen expressed concern that leaving open the county-run beaches next to his community would put residents' health at risk.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett pushed unsuccessfully Tuesday to close county beaches for two weeks during the hot spell, saying that the local coastline has been a magnet for visitors from the Inland Empire as well as Los Angeles and San Diego counties — which have shuttered their sandy stretches.

However, other jurisdictions are loosening their restrictions. Residents of the city of Ventura can once again access the city's beaches, pier, promenade and parks as long as they keep their distance from one another and remain active.

Another Ventura County city, Port Hueneme, has experimented with a "soft reopening" of its beach to walking, running, biking and solo surfing and paddle-boarding.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Track cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

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