Reopening San Diego

El Cajon Mayor Still Against Health Order Enforcement Despite City's Alarming Case Rate

El Cajon has a case rate of 24.1, more than three times the limit for Purple Tier, according to data from the county

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New county data showing case rates in individual cities suggests El Cajon, with a case rate of 24.1, has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, but the city’s mayor says enforcing pandemic-related health violations isn’t top of mind.

Click here to see the county's dashboard.

"We're not saying that we are not going to ever get involved, but we are going to deprioritize those kind of calls,” Mayor Bill Wells said Thursday.

San Diego County slipped into Purple Tier on Tuesday -- the county's case rate was 8.9, above the 7.1 Purple Tier limit -- and the demotion brings along a new set of commercial restrictions that will go into effect Saturday.

A snapshot of a map showing the case rate in El Cajon as of Nov. 12.
San Diego County
A snapshot of a map showing the case rate in El Cajon as of Nov. 12.

Some of the most notable restrictions include bans on indoor operations and services at restaurants, gyms and places of worship.

“It's an example of government overreach,” the mayor said. “I think it’s going really many steps too far."

Mayor Wells’ attitude toward the restrictions has been the same for some time. In August he called a special city council meeting to direct his city’s police department to stop enforcing restrictions placed on nonessential businesses.

Wells argued his police department's time is valuable and should not be spent enforcing mask and social distancing policies, or closure orders at businesses.

“Many are enduring severe depression, anxiety, isolation and many other emotional, spiritual and sociological deprivations as a result of this stunning governmental overreach," Wells said in August.

His stance is helping his popularity in some parts of the business community.

“I love El Cajon. I think the mayor of El Cajon has done a good job,” said Antonio Diaz, owner of Stay Sharp barbershop.

Barbershops are allowed to stay open and operate indoors, but there is a long list of modifications shop owners must make to remain compliant.

Diaz said he’s been closed down twice by the county and come Saturday, he’s going to close his doors temporarily once again.

NBC 7's Melissa Adan breaks down the county's move to Purple Tier and all the new rules that come with it.

Next door at Rob's Brewpoint Coffee, owner Robert Chapman says he’ll have to survive off takeout orders and sidewalk seating.

“We answer to the health department and we know at some point that may or may not weigh into things, so we comply because we are more concerned about being shut down by them,” Chapman said.

Even still, he appreciates his mayor standing up and defending his bottom line.

“I appreciate it, you know? I know he has really been working hard for the small businesses,” Chapman said.

Mayor Wells said he and his family have received serious threats for fighting against state and county-imposed restrictions, and said enforcing such restrictions is outside the city's jurisdiction and falls under the county's responsibility.

"If you want to solve this problem, let's cut everybody's pay to zero. I bet we'd solve this in about three days," Wells said.

It’s the last day before businesses are set to regress to more restrictions following San Diego County’s shift to the purple tier. NBC 7’s Nicole Gomez has more details.
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