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‘Active Recreation’ Designations And Phased Reopenings May Offer A Model For Post-Lockdown America

States across the country are reopening and implementing sweeping changes to their stay-at-home orders this week, despite the fact that the coronavirus hasn’t, you know, gone anywhere. This fact isn’t lost on the states, who are essentially operating in the dark and responding to a problem that no one can really offer definitive answers or guidance on. Governors are balancing communications with hospitals and doctors against the president’s aggressive position and armed protests. It’s no small puzzle.

Clearly, we don’t know for certain what post-lockdown life will look like yet, but our most populous state has given some early indications. California — the first state in the country to implement a statewide lockdown — currently has the lowest number cases and deaths per 100 thousand people when compared to the top eight states by total confirmed COVID-19 cases. That success, in a state with a population of nearly 40 million, is due to a wide number of factors, with the state’s leadership and rapid response being central elements.

On May 4th, California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled phase two of California’s plan to reopen in a press conference and indicated that by as soon as Friday, people could expect certain businesses to open for the first time since early March. This plan will allow clothing stores, florists, bookstores, and sporting good stores to open their doors this Friday. Offices will remain closed and teleworking will continue, restaurants will still be barred from in-person dining, and shopping malls will remain closed.

Governor Newsom has long said that California’s reopening plan would be determined by science and data and not public pressure, but it appears that he has caved slightly to a certain subset of Southern Californians who were growing increasingly frustrated with the governor after he ordered all Orange County beaches to close after large crowds flocked to the beaches during a particularly hot weekend in SoCal.

Beginning on May 5th, beaches in the Orange County cities of Laguna Beach and San Clemente have been granted permission to reopen on a very limited basis. According to CNN, beaches in the two cities will be open between the hours of 6 am to 10 am (on weekdays only for Laguna). People who want to visit the beach must participate in what is being called “active recreation” — meaning they’ll be able to visit the beach so long as they’re running, swimming, or surfing. Picnicking and beach lounging will remain prohibited, so if you want to work on your tan you’re going to have to do that at home or on the move.

“In the spirit of collaboration and the spirit of modifications I want to really thank the leadership down in Orange County,” said Newsom in a press conference announcing the changes. “They put together an outstanding plan to begin to reopen those beaches and we not only applauded that, we enthusiastically embraced it, and as a consequence, with those modifications… those beaches will be reopened.”

The changes come just three short days after the county attempted — unsuccessfully — to block the Governor’s order to close these same beaches. Governor Newsom also indicated that similar announcements would be made in the coming days regarding other public gathering spaces, while stressing that individual communities will need to remain proactive in what they feel is too much too soon, given the massive size of the state. If things go as smoothly as the state is hoping, we could be looking at a useful model for other states to adopt.

“We are not telling locals that feel it’s too soon, too fast to modify,” Newsom said. “We believe those local communities that have separate timelines should be afforded the capacity to advance those timelines.”

Given that the temperature across Southern California for the next seven days looks likely to hover around 90-degrees, we imagine people aren’t going to be waiting too long to hit those freshly opened beaches. If that means you, just remember to put your pent up quarantine energy to good use and keep moving.