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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

San Diego Sheriff could take action if Awaken Church continues defying public health order

On Sunday, churchgoers attended an indoor religious service without masks.

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego Church continues to hold indoor religious services as coronavirus cases throughout the county reach their highest levels since the pandemic began.

Awaken Church was issued a public health advisory Saturday after health officials confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 cases there. It’s asking anyone who attended services there from November 15 through the 22 to quarantine. 

But, it was business as usual at Awaken Church on Sunday and now a San Diego County Supervisor and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are saying what could happen if the church continues to violate COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“The Awaken Church has chosen repeatedly to defy the public health order and now they have a significant outbreak of members of their congregation and I pray for those members,” said Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County Supervisor, District 1.

Supervisor Fletcher spoke out about Awaken Church and the Public Health Advisory issued by the county. Health officials said at least three people who attended service there from November 15 through the 22 contracted COVID-19. News 8 captured video of members going inside the church for service Sunday and no one was wearing a mask.

“Church can gather remotely. They can gather in outdoor settings, but we know that indoor church services are one of the highest risk settings, which is why the state guidelines do not allow them to meet in person,” Fletcher said.   

A cease and desist order was issued to Awaken Church on Monday, November 23. It said that if the state’s COVID-19 guidelines aren’t followed, the county will take the necessary action to enforce them and the church could face a $1,000 fine for each citation violation.

“The county, from a public health standpoint, has essentially done what we can do. The next steps will be up to law enforcement and the District Attorney," said Fletcher.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said this weekend, its compliance team visited those who received a cease and desist order, which includes Awaken Church. The Sheriff’s Department said appropriate action was taken and its priority is to educate, gain voluntary compliance and only enforce when necessary. It said if the order continues to be violated, the church could be issued a citation, and police could ask the district attorney to review the case.

It’s been a week since Awaken Church was issued a cease and desist order. The church has not been issued a citation and as of Monday evening, it has not responded to our request for comment.