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County Issues Cease-And-Desist Orders To Organizations For Violating COVID-19 Health Regulations

Fit Athletic Club in Solana Beach is shown on Nov. 17, 2020.

Photo by Jacob Aere

Above: Fit Athletic Club in Solana Beach is shown on Nov. 17, 2020.

In less than two weeks, San Diego County has gone from about 200 cases of COVID-19 a day to more than a thousand over the weekend. That led the county to issue 43 cease-and-desist orders to organizations across the region.

The county is now in the purple, most restrictive tier of health regulations. That means restaurants, movie theaters, museums and places of worship can only operate outdoors.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

The list of organizations that got the cease-and-desist orders include restaurants and bars, gyms, yoga studios and a church in Carlsbad.

But cease-and-desist orders can only do so much.

“The actual fine or penalty associated with that has to be written by the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction for that particular location, then it’s up to the district attorney or the city attorney in the City of San Diego to prosecute that offense,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

KPBS reached out to both the District Attorney and City Attorney’s offices to see if there have been any prosecutions. The City Attorney’s office said there have not been any. We didn’t hear back from the DA.

“If we chased every COVID complaint, we would just stop doing all policing in any other form in the City of El Cajon,” said El Cajon City Manager Graham Mitchell.

Mitchell said it’s important to use data when making decisions about the use of limited city resources. He said issuing fines wasn’t the best way to handle the situation.

“We’ve found that more educative approach has been far more effective than coming in, threatening to shut people down or threatening to fine somebody a thousand dollars,” he said.

That is the consequence facing violators, each of whom received a letter from County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten, detailing the possible $1,000 fine for each violation.

Fletcher said after months of dealing with COVID-19, the notion that people still need to be educated about the problem defies common sense.

“I don’t think that our challenge in confronting COVID is a lack of awareness of what folks are supposed to be doing. I think our challenge is to actually do it,” he said.

That will definitely be a challenge. Consider what the lead pastor of Skyline Church said on Monday to our media partner, 10News:

“I don’t want to fight our county, we don’t want to fight we really don’t, but we will because we know our rights, and we know how important it is that we stay open,” said Jeremy McGarity.

The church has not been cited, and while the disagreements continue, so does a virus that’s tearing across the country with no end in sight.

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The San Diego VA is making access to mental health care harder for local veterans, outraging therapists who say the agency’s actions are dangerous and irresponsible. Meanwhile, San Diego hospitals are bracing for a surge in COVID-19 cases that could exhaust medical staff and resources. Also, Supervisors are taking action, approving more funding for an income replacement program.

Aired: November 18, 2020 | Transcript

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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