Coronado Mayor Joins Call for Beach Reopenings

Mayor Richard Bailey said it is likely the county is still several weeks away from reopening the beaches but the public should have some sense of relief that several local mayors are working together to create guidelines for reopening

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As the call grows louder to open San Diego's beaches and trails to the public amid a "stay at home" order, the mayor of Coronado is joining the chorus.

Mayor Richard Bailey in a Facebook post on Sunday criticized the San Diego County public health order for its inconsistencies in allowing some physical activities, like walking on a sidewalk, while denying others that he argues could be conducted while adhering to social distancing guidelines, like surfing.

"The latest county health order threatens to erode the public's trust in the very institutions that depend on the public's continued compliance," Bailey wrote. "If social distancing is the goal, then does it really matter if you are social distancing in the ocean or on land? Does it make a difference if you are six feet apart from one another while walking on the sidewalk versus walking on the beach," he questioned.

Bailey believes social distancing efforts are working but told NBC 7 the problem with the public health order is that it prohibits activities without asking if the activity can be done while following the rules.

Mayor Richard Bailey said it is likely the county is still several weeks away from reopening the beaches but the public should have some sense of relief that several local mayors are working together to create guidelines for reopening.

San Diego County public health officials said they were looking forward to working with the mayors of all 10 coastal municipalities to develop a cohesive plan to ease restrictions activities at beaches like surfing, paddleboarding and swimming. The mayors were asked to convene and present a plan to the county that could be put into effect in the coming weeks, according to County Supervisor Greg Cox.

The statewide "stay-at-home" order first went into effect on March 19 and the following week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom added restrictions on beaches and trails. County health officials then ordered parking lots at all beaches, parks and trails to close but it was up to each jurisdiction to close access to the beach if officials did not feel like the public could adhere to social distancing and other requirements.

The city of San Diego ordered the closure of its beaches, parks, boardwalks and other open spaces on March 23 and other cities, including Coronado, followed suit.

At the county's daily press conference, Cox said he disagreed with Bailey, to an extent about the criticisms expressed in the Facebook post.

"Give us ten more days. Give us an opportunity to take the month of April to get this disease, this pandemic, under control in San Diego County,” Cox urged.

The county's public health order is in effect through April 30 and could be extended if necessary.

San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry also called for the reopening of area parks and beaches as soon as the start of May -- depending on input from health experts -- in a statement released Friday.

Bry said she wants the city, county and scientific community to work together on a plan to reopen these recreational sites “as soon as the first week of May.”

“Our parks and beaches play an important role in San Diego life, particularly for our residents who live in dense neighborhoods. From parents looking for a safe outing for their now-at-home kids to apartment dwellers itching for more space, these public areas are irreplaceable and are an important component of our physical and mental health,” her office wrote in a press release.

Bry said any decision would need to include guidelines on continued social distancing and face coverings.

“As always, such decisions must be based on science and the advice of public health experts, but I believe it will be possible to develop prudent plans to re-open our beaches and parks by early next month,” the council president pro tem said.

“Not following the order is a misdemeanor subject to a $1,000 fine,” County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. The violation may also lead to six months in jail.

Local law enforcement have cracked down on violators of the public health order. At the start of April, the San Diego Sheriff's Department issued more than 20 citations to people who visited the beach in Encinitas.

Although many Coronado residents are calling for the beaches to reopen, several told NBC 7 they do understand why the social distancing rules are in effect.

"I see both sides of this. I see why government is trying to close stuff down because we have kids like in Florida that they're just uncontrollable," said resident Randy Hunsincker. "If people would just obey we could have a little more freedom."

Mayor Bailey's call came on the heels of protests of dozens in Encinitas demanding the beaches and trails reopen and a similar protest in downtown San Diego calling for the reopening of businesses.

The mayor also believes there is inconsistencies in what businesses are allowed to remain open. He argued if small businesses are able to do their jobs while maintaining social distance, covering their face and following other mandates, they should be allowed to operate the same as larger retailers.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he will make an announcement this week on the possibility to open beaches within the city of San Diego.

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