Newly-elected San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria has signed his first executive order to direct enforcement of COVID-related public health orders ahead of the New Year's Eve holiday.
Gloria's action Wednesday afternoon targeted those "blatantly defying provisions" of the state's stay-at-home order and the county's public health regulations.
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 went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
The executive order, which came 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.
Southern California's current ICU capacity of 0.0% means that hospitals are now relying on surge capacity to treat critical care patients. The stay-at-home order will remain in place for the 11 counties in Southern California, including San Diego County, for the foreseeable future.
The surge in coronavirus cases this month has been attributed mostly to Thanksgiving holiday gatherings in November.
Last week, Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten reported that 1 in every 162 local residents had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 7 days, indicating a much higher rate of spread than other months. Wooten added, of the total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, 44% had occurred since Thanksgiving.
The numbers were presented as a reminder to San Diegans to avoid gathering with members outside of their household for the Christmas holiday. Despite warnings, though, travel data for that weekend indicates that many didn't adhere.
Because of that, and the expectation that, even still, some will gather for the New Year's Eve holiday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the state is bracing for a "surge on top of a surge, arguably on top of, again, another surge."
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.
"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.''
The state's stay-at-home order prevents most business and recreational facilities from operating, both indoors and outdoors, including: hair salons and barbershops, personal care services, museums, zoos and aquariums, movie theaters, wineries, bars, breweries, distilleries, live entertainment and amusement parks. It also prohibits gatherings with members of other households.