SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — San Francisco reported a new coronavirus-related death on Saturday, the city and county’s 8th recorded COVID-19 fatality and the first such death since April 1.
As of Saturday morning, the city reported a total of 529 cases.
On Friday, San Francisco mayor London Breed responded to calls from supervisors and housing activists that the city house all its 8,000 homeless residents in hotel rooms, in the wake of a confirmed novel coronavirus case at a homeless shelter.
CRACKDOWN ON SCOFFLAWS
A lone Alameda police patrol car sat parked in the midst of the city’s empty Washington Park playground, a visual reminder that the area has been closed down under new tougher shelter-in-place orders.
Across the San Francisco Bay Area, law enforcement officials are stepping up enforcement of the new orders on residents who chose to ignore the health directives.
An 86-year-old man was cited by San Francisco police Friday for violating the safe-distancing order while leafleting. Police Chief Bill Scott said at a Friday noon press conference that his officers would be handing out more citations.
“The last time I was in front of you I predicted there would come a time where we have to cite,” Scott said. “That time has come, and we have begun citing.”
He also warned local ‘non-essential’ businesses that also choose to ignore the order.
“I’ll make this very clear, particularly for the business owners in our city,” Scott said. “If we have to go back, we are not going to ask twice.”
Among the new restrictions has been closing recreational area parking lots, closing playgrounds and shared facilities for recreational activities and shutting down dog parks.
But crowds have still flocked areas like Menlo Park’s Bedwell Bayfront Park. On Friday evening, city officials completely shut down access to the park until further notice and placed officers there to enforce their orders.
“While many people are following the health officer’s order, many more continue to ignore directives and put others at risk,” the city said in an entry on its coronavirus update page.
“Signage has been damaged, team sports have continued and complaints have risen,” officials said. “Many community members have
expressed their concerns about what they have experienced in our parks and public spaces. The city has responded by increasing signage and awareness campaigns, and closing additional recreation facilities.”
In Santa Cruz, sheriff’s deputies have formed Compliance Contact Teams that will patrol local beaches and parks, enforcing the county’s new shelter-in-place order. Violation of the order can be punishable by a misdemeanor charge that could result in a fine, imprisonment or both.
Across California, the situation was being repeated in community after community. Officials have relied on totally on social pressure to make sure people don’t gather in large groups, but now it’s time for a tougher crackdown.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore used stronger language when reminding people that state and local distancing measures aren’t just recommendations and that scofflaws could face misdemeanor charges carrying up to a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
“The days of trying to get voluntary compliance are over,” Gore said Thursday. “The message is going to go out to all of public safety here in the county that we will start issuing citations.”
Many beaches, parks and hiking trails around the state and most beach parking lots have been closed because they attracted large crowds.
On Thursday, a paddleboarder near the Malibu pier was taken into custody and cited for a misdemeanor after he allegedly ignored lifeguards’ orders to leave the water, authorities said.
“Stay home, shred later,” urged a message on the website of the Surfrider Foundation, a conservation group based in Southern California.
Mel Thoman told the Orange County Register that he’s stopped body surfing at the Wedge, a popular, often-crowded surfing spot in Newport Beach.
“I’d love to be out there,” she said. “It’s a health issue and it’s a serious one. I don’t think people get that.”
There have been some 12,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 virus infections in California and some 280 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Reported cases continue to surge, in part because more people are being tested.
The coronavirus mainly is spread though coughs and sneezes. For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Virus safety requirements have slowly tightened in recent weeks.
Beginning Saturday, it became mandatory in San Diego County for those who work with the general public at essential businesses such as grocery stores and gas stations to wear non-medical cloth face coverings.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said a similar order may be issued soon in his area.
In the meantime, LA is cracking down on so-called nonessential businesses that remain open in defiance of the city’s stay-at-home orders.
The city attorney’s office has charged four businesses — two smoke shops, a shoe store and an electronics store — with illegally staying open.
The mayor’s office said more than two dozen businesses have been referred to the city attorney for possible prosecution.
“We will find you, we will come after you,” Garcetti said.
Meanwhile, Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for Christians, and many churches will be streaming services online rather than holding public services.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles “is inviting the faithful to place a branch in their home on April 4 as a sign of welcoming Christ the King into their homes especially in this time of coronavirus pandemic,” a statement from the archdiocese said.
But some churches were being blamed for failing to practice safe distancing.
Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi sent the city a “cease and desist” letter after police entered the church last week during a service attended by about 30 people and the church intended to continue its services, attorney Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law & Policy told the Sacramento Bee.
Officers have posted a “notice of public nuisance” on the church’s main entrance, city spokesman Jeff Hood told the Bee.
In the Sacramento area, more than 70 members or people associated with members of the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church near Rancho Cordova have the COVID-19 virus, including the chief pastor, officials said.
The church closed on March 18 and moved services online but “we have been told by multiple sources that there are groups that continue to meet in homes,” Sacramento County health chief Dr. Peter Beilenson told the Sacramento Bee.
In an online statement, the church “disputes accusations that its members widely continued to gather as reported.”
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report