Most of Santa Cruz is taking the shelter in place order seriously. They have altered their lives to protect our community and those most at risk. Thank you!
There are a few people who persist in flaunting their desire to gather in mass or conduct themselves in a way that has great potential for harming many people. SCPD COVID 19 enforcement policy is to educate first, engage personally, and then enforce state the law and local ordinance. We desire to gain compliance. Officers have cited three people so far, but more are likely.
Food Not Bombs (FNB) and others gathered dozens of people to the clock tower last night for a rally. There was no social distancing among participants. Some people shared cigarettes. Other people did not sanitize their hands. Mass gatherings such as this cannot continue as it puts all Santa Cruzan’s at risk. According to the CDC, the homeless are very vulnerable and at high risk for COVID 19.
Gathering in large groups is reckless, irresponsible, and is a crime we enforce.
The Mayor, City Manager, and I told FNB to move from the small space of the clock tower to a larger area and to direct participants to practice social distancing and hand sanitation. They have ignored this admonition. Today I wrote an FNB leader a cease and desist letter warning him of the dire consequences of hosting mass gatherings of vulnerable people. We have educated and engaged. Enforcement is next. Compliance is essential, and time is of the essence.
Here is what the city has done: Put out additional portable toilets and handwashing stations in multiple locations around the city. The city offered each homeless person camping near the post office space more conducive for sanitation and separation. Almost all campers accepted the offer. The city team then moved more than a dozen people from the Post Office to lot 17. Once there, campers were triaged with the amazing help of two volunteers (Serg and Rafa). Consider the responsible manner this was managed. Cooperation and collaboration are essential to effectiveness. Then each person was systematically supported and placed into hotels for separation and isolation.
Some others have chosen to golf at the De La Vega golf course even though it’s closed. The SIP is not an option or a holiday. One person brought a golf cart; others put sticks into holes on the greens for flag posts. Officers, rangers, and CSO’s have been dispatched to educate, engage, and then enforce the law at De La Vega Park. The fines can be as much as $ 1,000.
What is most concerning to me is that a few people are putting the greater community at risk. Police staff members have thousands of contacts each day. We don’t need more during this pandemic. Policing during a crisis is tough enough, without people willing to violate the law for personal desires. There is a great deal of fear and uncertainty each day as an officer walks out of their house in normal times, let alone during these exceptional circumstances. Please do your part by not exposing our officers to additional contacts and unnecessarily forcing them into a face to face interactions. We need them to stay healthy to serve you better.
We will get through this together. I could not be more proud to be part of this exceptional community.