No firework displays or parades will take place on the mid-Peninsula today, Independence Day 2020. Local and state officials are urging people to stay home in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Events in Mountain View, Redwood City and Foster City have been canceled.
“While we are disappointed we won’t be able to celebrate together and gather for our usual fireworks display, we know this is the best decision for the health and well-being of our Redwood City community at this time,” Redwood City Port Board Chair, Ralph Garcia said in a statement about the cancelation of the annual fireworks show at the Redwood City Port.
Palo Alto’s annual chili cook-off at Mitchell Park has also been canceled.
The nearest fireworks display is in Gilroy, which will shoot fireworks higher into the air, meaning people within 2.5 miles will be able to see the fireworks, which will be shot off at Gilroy High School.
However, parking at the high school and nearby streets will be closed in order to keep crowds down.
Beach parking lots closed
San Mateo County officials have also announced it will be closing Tunitas Creek Beach, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and the Devil’s Slide Trail beginning today (July 4) and ending at 9 a.m. Monday.
Additionally, the cities of Pacifica and Half Moon Bay will be closing city beaches. Parking lots for all beaches in the county will be closed. The closures come as an “all-out effort to reduce the density of visitors” to the coast, according to a statement from county officials.
Sheriff’s deputies will be enforcing fireworks and parking violations along the coast.
Officials from San Mateo County and the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District issued a statement asking people to stay home.
The push to keep Independence Day revelers home is happening throughout the state if not the country. Aside from beaches in San Mateo County, beaches in San Francisco and Monterey County will be closed. Beaches in Santa Cruz County will be open.
However, parking near all beaches will be closed or severely limited.
But with fewer professional celebrations, many are bound to shoot off fireworks in backyards and at block parties, as the area has seen for the past month.
Fireworks complaints have been flooding into police and fire dispatchers.
Redwood City Police are reporting pages of fireworks calls in their daily police logs. And Menlo Park Mayor Cecilia Taylor said during a meeting on Monday that the city’s police department has gotten over 200 calls about fireworks.
There have been so many complaints that Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto held a rare joint meeting to discuss ways to curb the use of fireworks by residents.
Trouble catching fireworks shooters
At the meeting, all three police chiefs said their officers have been trying to respond to fireworks calls, but it is difficult to arrest anyone because, by the time police officers show up on the scene, the people who set off the fireworks are gone.
East Palo Alto Police Chief Al Pardini said there are some people who drive around town shooting off fireworks.
He also said there are competitions between people on streets, where someone will walk outside their house, set off a firework, and go back inside. A few minutes later, someone a couple of doors down will do the same thing.
But some health officials are also worried that people will just have large gatherings at their homes.
Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians on Thursday to turn to their “better angels” and use common sense by wearing masks and skipping traditional gatherings with family and friends during the holiday weekend.
“We’re not going into everybody’s backyard and enforcing,” he said. “We’re just encouraging people to be safe, to be thoughtful about themselves and others.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, called the holiday weekend a “big deal” for efforts to contain the virus and urged people to behave differently than they did on Memorial Day weekend, when many gathered socially. There were also protests in early July where many participants didn’t wear masks or distance themselves from one another.
Within two weeks, cases began to surge. However, a large part of the surge is due to the increase in testing.
“This is another time for Californians to pay attention to what happened over the last month and make a different set of decisions now,” he said.