‘Slow the Spread’: Malibu Pier, Hiking Trails, Beach Parking Lots, Bars, Retail, City Hall Forced to Shut Down

Caution tape and orange fencing block off the playground at the Malibu Country Mart.

The Santa Monica Mountains area reported two confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, March 24.

That was according to the latest daily bulletin supplied by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stating the area of each of the 662 (so far) laboratory-confirmed cases of the viral infection caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It was not clear if either or both of those cases were discovered among Malibu residents; due to the way cases are reported, there is no way to confirm whether Malibu residents are among those, as Malibu’s population is below the threshold needed to appear as a line item on the growing list. 

Also on the list: three confirmed cases in Agoura Hills, four in Calabasas, nine in Pacific Palisades, 16 in Santa Monica, four in West Los Angeles and eight in Woodland Hills.

On Thursday, March 19, a Pepperdine student who had been attending classes at the university’s Malibu campus tested positive for the virus, marking the first known case among the Malibu community.

As of Tuesday, 11 deaths in LA County had been positively attributed to the novel coronavirus, according to county health officials.

The rising number of confirmed cases led California Governor Gavin Newsom to enact a “Safer at Home” order at midnight on Friday, directing all Californians to avoid leaving their homes except for specific “essential” tasks such as grocery shopping, essential work and individual exercise.

A round-up of this week’s top stories from malibutimes.com:

First COVID-19 case confirmed in Malibu community

A Pepperdine student attending classes at the university’s Malibu campus has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the university confirmed on Thursday evening, March 19, in a story first broken by the Pepperdine Graphic.

“The university learned today of two additional confirmed positive COVID-19 test results within the Pepperdine community, including the first known COVID-19 case on the Malibu campus,” a press release from the university stated. “The student did not live in university housing and is now in isolation.”

This marks the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the Malibu community, although county officials have not provided data indicating how many, if any, additional patients in Malibu have tested positive for the disease.

The announcement marks the third Pepperdine student to test positive for the disease; the other two students had been enrolled in Pepperdine’s London study abroad program and were not taking classes in Malibu.

Malibu Pier, beach parking, MRCA trails closed due to virus concerns

The City of Malibu reported the historic Malibu Pier would be closed, including its parking lot, restaurants and retail, beginning Wednesday, March 25.

The closure came as a result of widespread outrage over dense visitor traffic on Saturday, March 21, when droves of visitors arrived in Malibu to enjoy one of the first warm spring days of the year.

“Crowding on beaches and trails or anywhere right now is not acceptable; it does not help us to slow the spread of coronavirus and it puts seniors and vulnerable groups at risk,” Mayor Karen Farrer said in a statement released by the city. “I know how difficult it is [to] have to stay home, and getting outdoors, getting exercise and enjoying nature are an important part of physical and mental wellness. But we all must come together and practice social distancing at all times to overcome this challenge.”

In response to complaints that droves of visitors were flocking to the Santa Monica Mountains, the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA) announced Sunday, “ALL parks, trails and building facilities, including restrooms, operated by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority are CLOSED until further notice in response to COVID-19 outbreak.” The closure included access roads and parking lots.

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and others urged Californians under the new “Safer at Home” order to enjoy time outdoors while maintaining safe social distancing of at least six feet.

“The City of Malibu is receiving reports of large numbers of people enjoying the outdoor resources in the Malibu area such as the pier, trails and beaches (as they are elsewhere in the county). The county order requires that social distancing (six feet between people) be practiced at all times while outdoors, including in the grocery store, on the beach, pier or on the trails,” a press release from the City of Malibu sent out Sunday afternoon, March 22, read.

In response, the National Park Service also called for the closure of Solstice Canyon beginning Monday, March 23, and the SMMNRA (Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area) parking lot on Tuesday, March 24. 

Californians ordered to stay home

On Thursday, March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom who announced the “Safer at Home” order, designed to “flatten the curve”—meaning it could help slow down the spread of the virus to lessen stress on the American healthcare system as more people become infected with COVID-19.

“We are not victims of fate or circumstance,” Newsom said Thursday. “The future is something that lives inside us.”

Newsom announced the order, which applies to all California residents except essential workers, moments after the close of a press conference hosted by Los Angeles County officials that detailed what “Stay at Home” means.

“This isn’t ‘shelter in place’ like a school shooting,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said during the LA County announcement. “This is, ‘Stay at home because it’s safer at home.’”

Officials at the state and county level emphasized the importance of residents exercising outdoors, going on walks, hikes and to the beach, although the order dictates all activities must take place with proper “social distancing,” meaning keeping a minimum of six feet between yourself and anyone outside of your household. Gyms and fitness centers will remain closed.

According to LA County officials, the following orders were in effect as of Tuesday, March 24:

* Public and private events of two or more people are prohibited

* Requires closures of indoor malls and shopping centers & all non-essential businesses and retailers

*  Also requires the closure of all indoor and outdoor playgrounds

The following “essential” businesses will be allowed to remain open:

* Schools

* Farmers markets, supermarkets, food banks

* Gas stations, banks, financial institutions

* Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians

* Banks

* Laundromats

* Healthcare operators

* Transportation services

* Restaurants (take-out/delivery only)

More information on the order is available on the state’s website at covid19.ca.gov.

It was not immediately clear how, if at all, the order will be legally enforced. According to the FAQ page for the City of Los Angeles, the order is legally binding.

“This order is a legal order issued under the authority of local and California law. You are required to comply, and it is a crime (misdemeanor) not to follow the order (although the intent is not for anyone to get into trouble, and the expectation is that everyone will comply),” the page detailed.

As for enforcement on the state level, Newsom said, “Social pressure is leading to social distancing”—and the state was relying on social pressure to ensure the order would be enforced.