(Image courtesy of Aaron Mikail)
Brentwood School

Column: Southern California beaches crowded amid pandemic

Seeking an escape from high temperatures, tens of thousands of people turn to their cities’ beaches for relief. Specifically in Los Angeles, from Manhattan Beach in the south, all the way up to Zuma Beach in the north, people can be seen crowding the beaches, once again raising the fear that substantial crowds in public areas could lead to major coronavirus outbreak. 

Situated alongside the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles’s beaches are some of the cities’ most popular destinations. Featuring global attractions such as the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Board Walk, the community boasts a vibrant and lively beach culture.

Beach activities such as boogie boarding, paddle boarding and surfing are among the most popular sports many beachgoers enjoy. For many, Southern California’s beaches serve as an escape to the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

Today, despite coronavirus concerns, Southern California’s beaches have still been packed with thousands of people.

A few weeks ago, I was able to personally witness the beaches firsthand and get a feel for the atmosphere. While at the beach, I observed hundreds of people crammed together, almost none of them wearing masks.

Millennials, often criticized for being the core of the problem, were not the only individuals who ignored the rules. In addition to millennials, many families chose not to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

As I walked down the beach, I noticed thousands of people laying right next to each other. Countless children sprinted up the shores playing football, paddle tennis and frisbee. The water even seemed crowded as people swam and played within the six feet guideline.  

After returning home, I decided to conduct a survey in order to see if other people experienced similar behavior when they went to the beach.

I collected data from 10 beach-going teens and found that out of the ten people I interviewed, only two reported instances where people actually followed social distancing guidelines. The eight others found that social distancing guidelines were ignored. 

“I felt like it was basically the same as it used to be,” Sam Singer, a regular beachgoer said. “No one was really social distancing.”

Almost all of the teens, similar to Singer, found that most people did not wear masks or try to separate themselves from other beachgoers.

“I saw people sitting right next to other people and talking without a mask on,” Max Saghian said. 

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases already high in Los Angeles County, people continue to put themselves at risk.

Ever since beaches reopened, overcrowding has become an ongoing problem. In March of 2020, many government officials expressed their disapproval toward the images of packed beaches. Even today, Southern California beaches remain the same. 

“This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful, sunny day,” Governor Gavin Newsom said during a daily news briefing early last year. “The images that we saw on a few of our beaches were disturbing.”

The first cases of COVID-19 in California surfaced in late January 2020. Los Angeles’s cases would continue to rise prompting Gov. Newsom to issue a statewide lockdown ordering all people to stay at home.

It was not until April 30, 2020, when L.A. County ordered all beaches closed as a result of the pandemic. All beach parks, all beach sidewalks and all beaches were shut down until further notice. 

Almost a year later, in early February, most beaches remain open to the public. Every day, people flocked to water leading to large crowds and congestion. Even amidst a global pandemic, Californians continue to ignore social distancing guidelines putting both themselves and others in danger.