SAN DIEGO – San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced Wednesday a new executive order calling for enforcement action on violators of state and local public health guidance amid a groundswell of COVID-19 cases that have strained area hospitals.
The newly elected mayor said he’s directed the San Diego Police Department and City Attorney’s Office to pursue fines of up to $1,000 and “potentially other enforcement actions against public nuisances who choose to endanger the lives of others and blatantly and egregiously defy the provisions of state and county public health orders.”
The bolstered enforcement efforts go into effect at 11:59 p.m.
“In the spring, we saw San Diegans come together to do the right thing and flatten the curve,” he said. “Through the summer and more recently, the city relied on the hope people would do the right thing to stop the spread. But unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.”
Gloria’s order also suspends parking enforcement throughout the city as the regional stay-at-home order was extended by state public health officials on Tuesday. The city will not be enforcing parking meter violations, time limited parking, yellow commercial zones and short-term green zones. Red, white and blue parking areas will continue to be enforced, however.
The announcement was met with approval from several local officials including San Diego City Council President Jennifer Campbell, Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn and San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
“The majority of San Diegans are taking appropriate measures to keep themselves and others safe by wearing a mask and not gathering,” Campbell said in a statement provided by Gloria’s office. “Those knowingly and willfully choosing to not follow public heath guidelines deserve to be held accountable. With a vaccine on the horizon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, let us be united in our defeat of this virus.”
On Tuesday, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said four-week projections indicate incoming COVID-19 patients are expected to continue exceeding ICU capacity in the region. Ghaly said the four-week projections are evaluated daily, and the region can emerge from the stay-at- home order whenever the projection indicates a region’s ICU capacity will rise above 15%.
Projections are based on four factors: current ICU capacity, the region’s seven-day average daily new case rate, the transmission rate and the rate of ICU admissions.
The region is expected to remain under the order for weeks to come, as health officials anticipate case numbers and hospitalizations will keep rising throughout January based on gatherings that likely occurred for Christmas and will again for New Year’s Eve despite warnings.
“This executive order is not designed to further punish those who have consistently done the right thing,” Gloria said. “This executive order is to hold accountable those who are responsible for prolonging this pandemic with their selfishness. While many have sacrificed their social lives for a greater good, others have treated this with a sickening level of apathy as their neighbors died.”
California also extended the stay-at-home order for the San Joaquin Valley. Four of the five regions carved out by the state are under stay-at-home orders, covering 98% of the state’s population.
Only far northern California is not under a stay-at-home order.
The Southern California region covers San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Most broadly, the order bars gatherings of people from different households.
“It is more important than ever to heed the advice of public health officials at all levels and take the necessary precautions against the spread of COVID-19,” Gloria said. “We owe it to the overburdened health care workers, all of those suffering from economic hardships and the families who lost their loved ones to this virus to do everything in our power to stop this devastation from dragging on any longer than it must.”