Chula Vista

‘Everybody Is Aware': Chula Vista Moving Away From ‘Education First' COVID-19 Enforcement

The city is issuing violation notices in lieu of warning letters, and cease-and desist orders could be more frequent

NBC 7 San Diego

It seems no community is immune to the surge in coronavirus cases seen nationwide, and cities, counties and states are toughening up on restrictions and enforcement in response to increased virus spread.

Eight months into the pandemic, Chula Vista is shifting from an education first strategy to something with a little more teeth.

“Being at this for eight months now, the thought is everybody is aware of the rules so we should be able to get that compliance a lot quicker,” said Marlon King, Chula Vista’s Emergency Services Coordinator.

The goal isn't to punish businesses, it’s to help them find a way to comply with the restrictions, according to King.

So starting Thursday in Chula Vista, the same day California issued a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for purple tier counties, the city is issuing violation notices in lieu of warning letters and businesses will have a minimum of 24 hours to comply.

In some cases, a cease-and-desist order may be issued by the county before the city sends a violation notice, according to a city spokesperson.

“Under any circumstance, all violations are to be corrected immediately. Follow-up investigations will still occur to ensure corrective actions have been made,” the spokesperson said.

If businesses are still in violation when follow-up investigations occur, closure orders and even criminal or civil penalties may be brought on by the city or county.

“We understand that everybody is doing their best and for the most part, everyone is doing a great job,” King said.

Chula Vista’s coronavirus case rate is 15.7, according to case rate data published by the county every Thursday.

That’s well above purple tier’s limit of 7, and it’s certainly helping to prop up the county’s overall case rate of 10.7.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department announced its commitment to enforcing purple tier restrictions and the state-imposed curfew throughout the county, and said deputy teams will be working with county compliance teams and local law enforcement agencies to get it done.

County Sheriff Bill Gore talks about the role of compliance enforcement teams and how citizens can do their part to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Restrictions on businesses aren’t exactly music to Tony Raso’s ears. The owner of La Bella Pizza on Third Avenue doesn't agree with all of the rules he has to follow, but he at least feels good when he does.

“We’ve got a little patio out on Third Avenue, but it’s not as big and you just have to do what you can,” Raso said.

Given what compliance has cost him, he said he's glad to see the city being proactive to make sure others are following them, too. He had to close his cafe & games section shortly after it opened.

“I miss that part of it. I like to hear the roar of their friends,” Raso said.

It’s been a tough eight months for everyone, but from King’s perspective the new enforcement strategy is the only way to make the next eight months not as bad.

“We’re averaging right around 62 new cases per day,” King said. “Previously, before that, the highest we saw was 59. That was back in July when we had this other spike.”

Meanwhile, Raso will be trying to keep his business alive through the holidays.

“We’ve been lucky in a lot of ways, but again, it’s just difficult to hope for a good holiday season with this kind of closure.”

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