Enjoy the ocean breeze, but put that face mask on tight

Story and Photos by Paul M. J. Suchecki

The Argonaut recently received an email from Summer Kjenstad, a Vista del Mar skipper, complaining that he was scared that most people on the marina promenade were not employing face masks or social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He was also worried that with beaches closed, more people were taking their seaside walks through the marina. In 40 years of sailing out of Marina del Rey, I have yet to hear anybody say, “Let’s take a postprandial stroll on the promenade,” so I had to investigate. Here is what I learned:

The marina promenade officially starts behind the Marina City Club and runs in both directions along the docks. Unlike the Venice boardwalk, pier and beach, the promenade is officially still open, as long as people keep six feet apart and do not congregate. Remember that the land in the marina falls exclusively under LA County jurisdiction, not the city.

According to the county, through May 15, all non-essential workers are required to stay at home unless they are going to essential businesses. There, both customers and workers must wear masks, a rule similar to that in the city of Los Angeles. Beverly Hills and Glendale are stricter, requiring facial coverings whenever people leave home, including local walks. But we’re not under complete lockdown; law enforcement and local governments recognize that with gyms closed, people do need to get outside for exercise. LA City has encouraged residents to wear face masks while exercising on its coronavirus FAQ webpage; the county does not require residents to
wear face masks on solitary runs or walks.

But are locals being careful enough on their seaside strolls?

Most people I witnessed on the promenade last Sunday afternoon were wearing masks, although couples had a hard time keeping six feet apart, possibly because it’s harder to hear somebody wearing a mask. (Also, couples cohabitating already may not be so worried about swapping germs.)

Foot traffic appeared higher than usual, but most strollers seemed local, many walking their dogs.

Most of the people who didn’t wear masks spoke foreign languages. Russian dominated followed closely by Spanish. Perhaps these communities could benefit from more outreach.

Many joggers and cyclists went mask free, which is short-sighted given the fact that wearing a mask is as much a tool for stopping the spread of infection by the virus as getting infected. Pushing one’s breath out hard and fast with aerobic exercise is great for the participant, less so for the person in a cyclist’s path confronting head-on those supercharged water droplets in human breaths that carry the virus.

I noticed one peculiarity about three men wearing masks. They seemed to treat wearing them as a fashion statement rather than true prophylactic gear. At first glance, this gentleman with gloves, a windbreaker, hat, and mask seems well prepared, but if you look at the mask, it has already slipped off his nose and is about to leave the bottom half of his mouth uncovered.

Contrast that mask with this one, used in dirt biking, and as the owner proudly boasted, “guaranteed to stop 99% of whatever reaches it from getting through.”

So what should a visitor to the marina promenade do? Recognize the reality of confronting a virus that, as of this writing, has infected 2.5 million people, killing at least 170,000 of them. To battle this silent assassin, LA County is asking people to “wear a face covering when they are interacting with others who are not members of their household in public and private spaces” while practicing social distancing.

As Captain Kjenstad, put it, “I hope everyone will just be safe and care and have compassion for others. This is no time to be selfish.”