California governor scolds some beachgoers, says state is 'weeks away' from meaningful modifications

TOPSHOT - People enjoy the beach amid the novel coronavirus pandemic in Huntington Beach, California on April 25, 2020. - Orange County is the only county in the area where beaches remain open, lifeguards in Huntington Beach expect tens of thousands

Gov. Gavin Newsom started his daily news conference on Monday by scolding beachgoers in Southern California for getting too close to each other over the weekend, quickly adding that the state is "weeks away" from making meaningful modifications to the stay-at-home order. 

The images on the beach in Orange and Ventura counties on Saturday were not what should have happened, Newsom said.

Coronavirus "doesn't take the weekend off. It doesn't take any time off. It is ubiquitous. It is invisible. It remains deadly. Ask the 45 families who lost a loved one in the last 48 hours. Please, please continue physical distancing," Newsom implored.

Newsom said he'd work with local governments, like those in Orange and Ventura counties, to change guidelines and increase enforcement, if necessary.

 "We have to manage and augment our behavior," Newsom said. And while he promised that the Golden State is getting closer to easing up on quarantine restrictions, he did not give a specific date as to when that would be. 

And when restrictions are changed, life won't immediately resume to normal. White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Sunday that “social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases."

In order to get to that point, Newsom said that those decisions will be driven by data, and require people to abide by physical distancing orders. 

Newsom clarified that he's not trying to criticize the person who wants to get outside and walk a dog on the beach. But he is talking about crowds flouting the law and setting the state back on the six criteria he's outlined that are necessary to finally reopening the economy. 

Over the weekend, a spring heat wave lured tens of thousands of people to the seaside town in Orange County, where residents compared the crowd size to something typically seen on July 4.

Visitors cruised around seaside neighborhoods searching for parking and packed the sidewalks that are inches from people’s front yards, said Diane Dixon, a councilwoman whose district runs along the beach.

“The residents are accustomed to summer visitors. This is not an issue in normal times. But in a pandemic it creates at lot of concerns, and our older residents are especially at risk,” Dixon said.

Neighboring Huntington Beach also saw big gatherings, despite the closure of beach parking lots and metered parking restricted along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Newsom noted that the majority of the people who went to the coastline acted appropriately, specifically calling out those in San Diego and in San Mateo County, because "we had strong guidelines that were abided by."

Newsom's announcement came shortly after seven Bay Area jurisdictions announced that the shelter-in-place orders would be extended past the original date of May 3. 

Until business can reopen and beachgoers can freely roam the coast, Newsom urged: "Let's just get through this thing together. The worst thing we can do is rest on our laurels and think this virus has gone away." 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif. The Associated Press contributed to this report.