Video of Ocean Beach drum circle spurs questions about virus rule enforcement

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SAN DIEGO – Video from a well-attended Ocean Beach drum circle surfaced late Wednesday, drawing questions about whether authorities intend to enforce local public health restrictions on social distancing.

“I could hear it — it sounded like a full band,” said Caleb Bautista, who overheard the gathering while walking home from work late Wednesday.

Few in the video shared on social media are wearing masks or any sort of facial covering and almost none are social distancing, a view which some argue is troubling as state and local leaders attempt to get the surging pandemic under control.

No citations were handed out for violations recorded at the drum circle, according to the San Diego Police Dept. In July, the department did not issue a single social distancing ticket, instead opting to educate potential violators about the public health order.

But the video surfaces at a time when new positive COVID-19 cases are on the rise locally, including at places such as Pacific Beach, which has seen reported cases nearly double in the past month.

As of Thursday, San Diego County has tallied 28,668 COVID-19 cases and 558 associated deaths, but public health officials have expressed concern about the steady flow of new cases and community setting outbreaks tied to the virus. Officials recently have been discussing implementing a new safe reopening compliance team as a measure to encourage more compliance by providing additional information about local guidelines.

“(We) are seeing continued outbreaks at businesses and places people gather,” County Supervisor Greg Cox said during a July 22 news briefing. “We need to curtail those outbreaks.”

Asked about the recent surge Thursday, Bautista questioned if the increase in cases was due to the influx of travelers over the Fourth of July holiday weekend — a time when San Diego-area beaches largely remained open while others in Southern California endured closures.

Others wondered about the lack of face coverings observed during late-week beach visits.

“We have noticed for the last month that there’s fewer masks on,” said an older Pacific Beach resident who asked only to be identified as Anne.

For Frederick Barney, who is stationed in San Diego, Thursday was his first time at the beach in about five months.

“I didn’t expect to see this many people,” Barney said.

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