SAN DIEGO — Amid rising COVID-19 case numbers and shrinking ICU capacity, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria Wednesday signed an executive order calling for stronger enforcement of state and county public health orders throughout the city.
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. Wednesday night.
"I’ve ordered San Diego police department to pursue fines and potentially other enforcement actions against public nuisances who choose to endanger the lives of others who blatantly and egregiously defy the provisions of state and county public health orders," said Gloria.
The executive order, which comes one day after California extended its regional stay-at-home order for the Southern California region due to surging COVID-19 hospitalizations, also suspends enforcement of parking regulations throughout the city "in an effort to encourage San Diegans to abide by the stay-at-home order."
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.
"As mayor, I cannot sit idly by as our local hospitals and morgues threaten to overflow as the coronavirus surges unchecked throughout our region," Gloria said.
In a brief news conference announcing the executive order, Gloria had strong words for those he said have prolonged the 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," he said. "This executive order is to hold accountable those who are responsible for prolonging this pandemic with their selfishness."
The mayor also urged San Diegans ahead of New Year's Eve to abide by statewide restrictions of non-essential activities between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and celebrate at home this year.
"As much as all of us want to celebrate the end of this terrible year with our family and friends, it is more important than ever to heed the guidance of public health officials at all levels, and take the necessary precautions against the spread of COVID-19," Gloria said.
San Diego Police Department declined to comment on camera but issued a statement: The police department will conduct enforcement to ensure our communities are kept safe and to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Those who willfully violate the county/state health order may be cited.
In the past, police have warned businesses and reported repeat offenders to the county who has issued dozens of cease and desist letters.
The sheriff assigned six deputies to the Safe Reopening Compliance Team but say it does not shut down businesses. News 8 asked about who has been cited and for what and why there is not enforcement at restaurants that remain open. We were referred to county administrations who has not commented on our request.
The District Attorney says eleven cases have been submitted for review including six restaurants and 2 gyms in North County, one restaurant and one gym in East County and one gym in the South Bay. Their names are not being released since it is under review.
"We’ve requested additional help from the state with alcohol beverages control inspections but there are limits to what you can do and that is where we need the public," said Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County Supervisor.
Both the city and the county pledge to work with struggling businesses.
"We owe it to the overburdened healthcare workers, all those suffering from economic hardships and the 1,400 San Diego families who lost a loved one to this terrible virus to do everything in our power to stop this devastation from dragging on any longer than it must," he said. "COVID-19 is not a joke -- this is a matter of life or death."
City Attorney Mara Elliot issued this statement: The surging rate of COVID-19 in our community is extremely troubling, and I'm glad that Mayor Gloria is taking swift action to protect San Diego hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Taking effect in advance of the New Year's Eve holiday, this Order affirms County and state public health mandates, including banning private gatherings of any size. While we are all eager to celebrate the end of a difficult year, I urge San Diegans to stay home and stay safe.