For the second time in two weeks, county health officials say a church in Kearny Mesa has violated public health orders. However, for now, the county is choosing not to take any enforcement action against the church.
It speaks toward the challenges facing county compliance officers as they decide whether to issue citations or ‘educate’ potential violators of public health orders.
Last month, NBC 7 reported that Awaken Church in Kearny Mesa was holding an indoor service in violation of renewed public health orders.
As a result, county compliance officers visited the church to discuss the infraction. County officials say the church was cooperative.
At Wednesday's county briefing, Supervisor Greg Cox even talked about the case.
“Our compliance officer was able to sit down and work with folks at that particular church. I think they appear to be in compliance now,” Cox said.
But that wasn’t entirely accurate. The church, in fact, did not hold an indoor service. But instead, dozens of people gathered outside in the church’s parking lot for an event Wednesday night.
The guests were made up of mostly young adults. Most of them were not wearing masks or social distancing.
A county official who saw a video of the incident said clearly, the group was not complying with orders.
A stage was set up in the parking lot and a band performed. County health officials consider singing in a tight group to be a high-risk activity.
The county says it will once again send compliance officers to the church before taking any enforcement action.
“We realize the pandemic is always evolving and some businesses are simply unclear as to the rules regarding reopening, and so we hope to educate them and to work with them,” Cox said.
Awaken Church issued the following statement:
“Thank you for your continued interest in our Church and its leadership. At this time, we have chosen to remain focused on serving our members and maintaining partnerships within the community. We elect to withhold any further comments and will make a diligent effort to contact you if we decide to accept your request for an interview. Thank you for respecting our decision."
Meanwhile, the decision by county officials not to take any immediate action illustrates the strategy being taken against potential violators of health orders.
“We're not trying to use heavy tactics. We want to get compliance,” Cox said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the county has issued shut down orders on three restaurants.
It’s also taken enforcement action on two churches, a gym, and a country club hosting a wedding.
A gym owner in Ramona has been cited four times, according to the county.
A church in Chula Vista was visited by authorities at least four times with no action being taken. The county said there was a COVID-19 outbreak at Hilltop Tabernacle.