County public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten has signed eight cease-and-desist orders in anticipation of planned Halloween parties in the College Area.
Two are targeted at private residences, and the other six are intended for residences belonging to four Greek-life organizations. Several of the addresses are homes right next to one another, and residents reportedly have planned to tear down back yard fences to make one large party area, according to a county spokesperson.
The cease-and-desist orders are based on Oct. 9 guidance that limits private gatherings to no more than three households.
“It has been documented residents at [address] intend to hold large gatherings on Oct 30, 2020 – Nov. 1, 2020 in blatant violation” of orders by public health officials, the orders state.
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Flyers found on social media this week highlighted several Halloween parties, with at least one expecting 300 people.
Violators of the cease-and-desist orders are subject to misdemeanor citations, with a $1,000 fine for each violation.
“We were compelled to take this action because there is a great deal at stake,” Wooten said in a statement released Friday. “Let me be very clear: The region’s livelihood hangs in the balance and is directly tied to our individual and collective actions. We are on the brink of moving to a more-restrictive tier. Know that our place on one tier or another is not based on the state’s assessment, it is intrinsically tied to our personal and common efforts. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is increased when we come in contact with individuals outside our households. Every decision each of us makes should be guided by that knowledge.”
The orders will be issued starting on Friday afternoon. The county is getting cooperation and assistance from San Diego State even though all of the addresses the orders are targeting are off-campus.
San Diego police issued a statement Friday afternoon that referenced the situation near SDSU, urging residents to follow the county public heath order.;
"The San Diego Police Department is aware of several Halloween parties planned for this weekend, including in the College Area. While we are seeing a surge in cases related to COVID-19, we continue to encourage everyone to follow the guidelines presented by the San Diego County Health Order limiting gatherings and exposure to this deadly virus. The department will work together with SDSU where appropriate to respond to any calls for service regarding loud parties this weekend and will take appropriate action, including issuing citations."
SDSU officials contacted NBC 7 after news of the cease-and-desist orders was announced, issuing the following statement:
The action comes as the county teeters on the edge of moving into the most-restrictive purple tier, under which, for example, indoor dining would be prohibited. The county is very concerned about the possibility that positive cases resulting from the planned parties could put San Diego across that threshold, to the detriment of the entire county.
Last week, SDSU issued a stay-at-home advisory to students in anticipation of Halloween, and on Friday, the county took it a step further. The university made it clear the stay-at-home order was not because of an increase in cases, but as of Thursday, 1242 students have tested positive since the fall semester began on Aug. 24.
"SDSU is fully supportive of the cease-and-desist order Dr. Wilma J. Wooten issued to the region’s higher education community. Since last spring, SDSU has worked with county public health officials to encourage that all students, faculty and staff adhere to public health guidelines and our state’s public health orders. Students should not be hosting or attending parties and should not be attending any in-person gathering that is not in compliance with public health directives.
SDSU will continue to enforce institutional student code of conduct policies, on and off-campus, which are in alignment with the public health orders. Since Aug. 24, nearly 970 notices of alleged violations of COVID-19-related student code of conduct policies have been issued. Those found to be in violation face disciplinary sanctions, including suspension and expulsion. Due to ongoing investigations and the judicial process, as well as privacy restrictions, the university cannot provide specific details about the notices or the individuals or organizations involved. "
Area residents have complained this semester about the party situation in the neighborhood, telling NBC Investigates that they felt the university had mismanaged bringing students back on campus amid the pandemic.