Scores of Orange County residents protested Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay home orders during the novel coronavirus pandemic and called on him to reopen the beaches and the economy, as virus case counts continued to increase. 

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Newsom closed just OC beaches, which began Friday. 

Protestors lined up on Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street sidewalks in Huntington Beach, opposing the orders while Huntington Beach police observed the protest, including officers on horseback. 

It’s unclear if anyone was arrested or cited because the city’s police department didn’t respond to numerous calls and messages. 

Meanwhile, the virus is slowly creeping through OC and has killed 50 people out of 2,537 cases, according to Friday’s updated count released by the county. There were also 181 people hospitalized, including 61 people in intensive care units. So far, 34,128 people have been tested in the county, which is home to over 3.1 million. 

Many protestors demanded Newsom ease back the stay home orders so they can get back to work. Some said the virus’ danger was overplayed, and other said it is simply a hoax. 

The stay home orders have shut down non-essential businesses like bars, nightclubs, sports arenas, concert halls, nail salons and many non-food retailers. 

Nearly 4 million Californians have filed for unemployment insurance and the state has paid $7.5 billion in claims, Newsom said at a Friday news conference. 

He said it’s a “record number of unemployment.” 

A smaller protest also kicked off in San Clemente Friday, with protestors vocalizing similar concerns people did at the Surf City protest. 

The two protests come on the heels of a host of OC officials condemning the beach closures Thursday

Supervisor Chairwoman Michelle Steel said the move is state overreach. 

“We should be rewarding our communities for practicing safe social distancing and not punishing them by only closing down Orange County beaches. This is unacceptable,” Steel said at a Thursday news conference. 

University of California, Irvine epidemiologist Andrew Noymer said the beaches should have remained open. 

“I’d much rather see a crowded beach than a crowded indoor shopping mall,” Noymer said in an interview. “People go to the beach on sunny days. So we’re blessed with all this Southern California sunshine, let’s use it.”

He said the sun’s ultraviolet rays can “attenuate” the chances of the virus spreading, meaning a reduced chance, compared to a shopping mall where the virus can spread more easily. 

“I don’t want people to think there’s like zero risk when there’s UV, “ Noymer said. “I’m not saying everyone should go to the beach, I’m saying if people have assessed their own risk and choose to go to the beach, they should not be prevented in doing so.”

Newsom has been hinting at reopening sections of the economy — a process Noymer said should roll out very slowly. 

“We need to keep monitoring and that means doing things 10 days apart, or even better 15 days apart in terms of every time we lift a restriction. Wait 15 days before we lift another restriction,” Noymer said, adding the intervaled reopening will allow researchers and public health officials time to see if there’s outbreaks or not.  

Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data  

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.

Digital Editor Sonya Quick contributed to this story. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sonyanews.

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