San Diego County officials announced Thursday that law enforcement will step up COVID-19 compliance protocols, including education and citations, amid spiking coronavirus cases.
Sheriff Bill Gore said four two-deputy teams will begin making "a full-time commitment" of the county's 18 cities and unincorporated areas, ensuring compliance with public health orders.
Deputies would not be going door-to-door, he added, rather following up on complaints. Education about public health orders will be the first method used, Gore said. Citations could follow.
"The bottom line is, wear those damn masks out there and social distance," he said.
Several cities have already confirmed they will send officers to assist deputies in their duties, including San Diego, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Oceanside and Coronado, Gore said.
In cities that do not work with county enforcement teams on their own, sheriff's deputies will step in but Fletcher urged cities to work with the county to educate and enforce the public health orders.
"This isn’t our first effort [to enforce the health order[ but I think it does magnify the issue we're faced with now," Sheriff Gore said. "our cases and hospitalizations are going up and I think it’s important to send the message this is a significant problem and enforcement action will be taken if it’s necessary."
The county has issued 52 cease-and-desist orders since Monday, including five Wednesday to Flicks in Hillcrest, Grinder Gym in Bay Park, Major's Diner in Pine Valley, RSD Boxing in Spring Valley and Studio Barre in Torrey Highlands.
Residents can report egregious violations of the health order with the county complaint line at 858-694-2900 or send an email here.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said communications have also been had with the District Attorney and City Attorney's offices to ensure that citations will be followed up with if necessary.
These stepped-up enforcement measures come on the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California counties in the state's purple tier will be subject to what amounts to a curfew, prohibiting all "nonessential" activities and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The "limited Stay At Home Order" applies to all counties in the most restrictive, purple tier of the state's coronavirus monitoring system -- which includes all Southern California counties. The order will take effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and remain in force until 5 a.m. Dec. 21.
Gore would not comment on how SDSO deputies would enforce Newsom's curfew among citizens hosting gatherings or on the streets past 10 p.m., stating he had not learned enough about the new order to comment.
County health officials reported 899 newly diagnosed COVID-19 infections and seven deaths Thursday, raising the county's cumulative case total to 68,140 and the death count to 952.
Thursday was the ninth consecutive day more than 600 new coronavirus cases were reported by the county and the third-most reported in a single day. On Sunday, 1,087 cases were recorded and 922 were reported Wednesday.
The last six days have marked the highest daily case counts since the start of the pandemic, with 736 cases reported on Saturday, 833 on Monday and 718 on Tuesday.
A total of 12,811 tests were reported Thursday and 7% of those came back positive, raising the 14-day rolling average of positive tests to 4.9%.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the hospital continues to rise, with 425 currently hospitalized in the county and 126 in intensive care -- nearly double the numbers a month ago.
Of the total number of cases in the county Wednesday, 4,274 -- or 6.4% -- have required hospitalization and 971 patients -- or 1.4% of all cases -- had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
Seven new community outbreaks were confirmed Wednesday -- one in an emergency services setting, one in a restaurant/bar setting, two in daycare settings, two in business settings and one in a grocery setting. Over the previous seven days, 38 community outbreaks were confirmed. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.
San Diego State University reported Tuesday it was canceling the majority of in-person instruction through the remainder of the fall term. Off-campus teaching activities at non-SDSU institutions, including hospitals and clinics, will continue as scheduled, following the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines at those institutions.
California updated its four-tier COVID-19 reopening statistics Monday, with San Diego County among those sinking further into the purple tier of the state's four-tier economic reopening roadmap. The county officially entered the purple tier and its associated restrictions just after midnight Saturday.
The county had a rate of 12.1 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, an increase of 2.1 compared to last week. The state-adjusted daily case rate increased to 10.7 per 100,000 population from 8.7 last week.
In response to rising cases statewide, Newsom on Monday pushed the vast majority of California counties into the purple tier.