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"Stay away": SLO County officials urge people from out of town avoid visiting local beaches

Posted at 10:55 PM, Apr 27, 2020

"Stay away" is the message to visitors from San Luis Obispo County officials Monday after "out-of-towners" packed beaches this past weekend.

County officials say anyone who is not a San Luis Obispo County resident is an "out-of-towner," but that didn't stop many visitors from heading to our beaches to escape the confines of their homes.

"You can't go to Disneyland; you cant go to the mall right now; you really can't do anything besides go to the beach," said Josanna Garcia, a tourist from Visalia who visited Pismo Beach with her family for the day.

Families from both near and far have been heading to Pismo Beach to soak up the sun, giving what some say is a much needed boost to business.

"The first five weeks nobody came from anywhere, so we were just kinda hunkered down; numbers were low, but we had our staff low and we cut our hours and streamlined our menu," said Co-Owner of the Splash Cafe, Joanne Currie. "I am trying to beef up my staff now because I got some of the stimulus loan for payroll. To use the money properly, you have to beef up your staffing and beef up your payroll which I'm happy to do -- but there has to be things for people to be doing at the same time."

Officials in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties reiterated their stances Monday that tourists could set back the county's progress in "flattening the curve.”

"We are asking for the time being, and we know summer's coming and we know we have lovely beaches but for the time being we are asking our visitors to stay away," said Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer for San Luis Obispo County.

"If you go to a park or a beach or a trailhead and there are already too many people there, go somewhere else," said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Greg Hart.

Both counties say time outside is important for physical and mental health, but it's pivotal that people include social distancing in their activities.

For out of town visitors like Josanna Garcia, she says beach access should be open to everyone after spending several weeks at home.

"I know a lot of people are getting depressed staying at home, and there's a lot of people with mental issues," Garcia said. "So I think having the beaches open to the public helps those people with those disabilities get out and enjoying the beach on a nice, sunny day really changes someone's mood."

Garcia says the city of Pismo Beach is already doing a lot to stop families like hers from staying at the beach for too long.

"I noticed when you came to Pismo Beach, you could park here for 4-6 hours," Garcia said. "And today you can only park here for an hour. So I do realize they're doing their best to have people social distancing by only having people here for an hour. We decided we'll be at the beach for an hour and then eat and then head back home -- that's enough for one day,"

Pismo Beach city officials say as long as people are social distancing, they will keep the beaches open.

In neighboring Avila Beach, officials say so far no beach citations have been issued.

In San Mateo County, just north of San Francisco, they've restricted people to traveling "no further than 5 miles to recreate."

Michelle Durand, a spokesperson for San Mateo County tells KSBY: "That [restriction] coupled with the closing of parking lots at beaches has helped tamp down the use by those who do not live within the 5 mile radius. That said, we are still seeing crowds at beaches and the sheriff’s office has issued several citations to visitors for illegal parking near them."