Within the face of a brutal pandemic, public well being and different native authorities officers for weeks have pleaded with Southern Californians to make a break with custom and keep away from the big events and different gatherings lengthy synonymous with Super Bowl Sunday.
They worry that crowded properties, backyards, bars and eating places may flip into “super-spreader” occasions, inflicting a surge in coronavirus instances simply because the area seems to be recovering from the vacation spike in COVID-19 instances.
But are such events and gatherings, a few of which undoubtedly will happen Sunday afternoon, strictly unlawful? By the letter of the legislation, the reply is sure — cities and county governments have the facility to prosecute individuals who refuse to comply with public well being and emergency orders.
But such prosecutions, over the past a number of months of the pandemic, have been rare.
In Orange County, only one bar proprietor in Costa Mesa within the final yr was charged with failing to mandate social distancing and masks sporting, and for persevering with to function throughout restricted hours, in accordance to the District Lawyer’s workplace.
Even for cities that came out most strongly against gatherings, prosecutions have been rare.
Metropolis officers in Los Angeles shut down water and energy to a handful of mansions within the Hollywood Hills the place residents, principally younger social media stars with big followings, threw large events, drawing complaints from neighbors. Few of these partiers have been in the end taken to court docket, nonetheless.
“I don’t assume it’s within the dozens,” mentioned Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Metropolis Lawyer’s Workplace.
Early on within the pandemic, LAPD and metropolis prosecutors visited companies that have been refusing to shut down. Most ended up complying, but the town nonetheless ended up charging retailer house owners within the dozens. Numbers for the whole quantity of prosecutions weren’t instantly out there.
In Burbank, the town’s campaign to get one bar, Tin Horn Flats Grill & Saloon, to shut down after its house owners refused to cease internet hosting out of doors eating in December illustrates the challenges native officers face in making an attempt to implement county well being orders.
Officers mentioned the bar acquired visits from the police, the L.A. County Division of Public Well being and the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Management over a number of weeks. The visits from native officers have been “to encourage voluntary compliance with the closure orders.”
On Jan. 8, the town issued a discover of violation taking the bar house owners to court docket to have their enterprise license revoked. The ABC additionally gave the bar a discover saying the company would begin the method of revoking its liquor license. Final week, L.A. County resorted to suing Tin Horn Flats and one other bar in Agoura Hills, looking for to revoke their well being permits.
“There is no magic bullet to simply shut a enterprise that is not voluntarily complying with well being orders,” a Burbank spokeswoman wrote in a assertion in regards to the metropolis’s quite a few visits to Tin Horn Flats.
Most cities have proven little willingness to get into prolonged fights with companies house owners, particularly throughout an financial downturn which have left many struggling to proceed working.
Police and sheriff’s departments from throughout the area have mentioned the method entails educating enterprise house owners first, with a ramping up of enforcement in the event that they proceed to violate the well being orders.
The Riverside Police Division mentioned they might proceed to reply to any complaints with an “academic” route looking for voluntary compliance, mentioned Officer Ryan Railsback, a division spokesman.
He mentioned that if police discover gatherings they deem “very unsafe and unhealthy,” they may cite the hosts and shut the occasions down.
But he mentioned that’s been rare: “We haven’t had to achieve this on some other occasions.”
“We would like folks to find a way to do issues by the rules and nonetheless have enjoyable,” Railsback mentioned.
The sheriffs of Riverside and Orange counties have repeatedly mentioned all through the pandemic that they might not implement Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restricted, statewide stay-at-home orders.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Division mentioned Super Bowl Sunday would proceed being “enterprise as typical.” Sheriff Chad Bianco mentioned his division wouldn’t crack down on enterprise house owners persevering with to function throughout the shutdowns.
The Orange Rely Sheriff’s Division didn’t reply to a request for remark.