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Carlsbad City Council holds off on enhanced COVID enforcement

The council did not take action to increase patrol, issue citations, or to require masks but voted to discuss comprehensive approach.

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Carlsbad City Council postponed any action against businesses in defiance of the state and local public health orders.

The special meeting on COVID enforcement on Tuesday evening called for increased enforcement around Carlsbad including $100 administrative fines for first offenses, $200 for second offenses and $500 for a third offense. 

The city attorney reports the county has issued 28 cease and desist orders and nine were submitted to the District Attorney for review.

In a virtual meeting, the council listened to four hours of public comment about the proposed increased restrictions and enforcement as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. 

In the past, the council agreed to increase patrol with more officers to watch for businesses and restaurants defying the stay-at-home order, but the council also stopped short of requiring facemasks. They voted 2-2 against that and an ordinance to allow for increased issuing of citations.

Councilmember Cori Schumacher made the call for Tuesday's meeting saying it would be prudent to revisit the agenda item as we see not only an increase in cases but an increase in the number of businesses defying the public health orders. 

"No one wants to close down business but at the same time we understand in order for us to get back to a sense of normalcy we all have to sacrifice," said Schumacher.

The council did not take action on enhanced enforcement but in a 4-1 vote (Mayor Matt Hall voting no) agreed to a comprehensive approach to educate and incentivize compliant businesses. 

Schumacher tweeted her disappointment after the meeting. 

A local attorney who is representing clients who are defying the order, Michael Curran joined News 8 on Tuesday morning to talk about the legal ground businesses have to stay open. 

"The legal ground is the highest law in the land, the United States Constitution... that's what you're allowed to do and that's what our clients are doing," said Curran."

Hundreds called in opposition to the citations saying businesses are just trying to survive.

"I am a longtime resident, constitute, neighbor, friend and a single mother doing her damndest to keep a small business alive," said a business owner.

There were very few who called in support. 

"The best way to protect my neighbors is to stay home when I can not party it up at the bars and restaurants because you don't have to go to work," said a woman in support of the enforcement. 

At the end of the meeting, City Manager Scott Chadwick told the members that he was recovering from COVID. Through a scratchy voice and shortness of breath, he encouraged people to wear their masks and said he would be taking the next couple of days off to focus on his health.

"It's real. I want to encourage everyone to wash their hands, maintain social distancing as best you can. If you get this it's a real kick in the pants so please everyone stay safe," said Chadwick.

The council says it will revisit a more regional approach at a future council meeting. 

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