The city is expecting residents and businesses to comply voluntarily with a new stay-at-home order that went into effect Friday, but will use more stringent measures—including fines and arrest—if necessary, according to a new memo that gives more clarity to enforcement measures.
The sweeping order, called “Safer at Home,” requires all non-essential workers and others to stay home, with the exception of grocery shopping, caring for a relative, health needs and other necessary activities. The city is asking residents not to gather in groups of more than 10 while indoors, and to practice social distancing of at least 6 feet from other people to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The state and county have issued similar orders in hopes of stemming the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19.
But, given limited police and city resources, how such an order would be enforced has remained unclear. The memo says police will use their authority if necessary, though officers in the field are being directed to first evaluate the situation—if a non-essential business is found to be open, for example—and work to educate those involved and try to get their voluntary compliance.
“Enforcement action should be the last option utilized, unless the circumstances pose an immediate threat of violence or other serious public safety concerns,” the memo said.
It is, however, a misdemeanor crime for businesses to not comply with the health department’s order and it can be punished with a fine, imprisonment or both, according to the city. The business’ staff or representative could be cited, and the business itself could have its business license and health permit revoked.
Enforcement of the unprecedented order is expected to take considerable resources. In order to free up officers, the police department has been temporarily reorganized:
- Officers have been reassigned to patrol and monitor key areas, like grocery stores and hospitals.
- All training and non-essential travel have been canceled.
- All vacation and holiday requests are being denied.
The department has also implemented more health screening measures for calls for service and public contact, the memo said.
What the public can do
If a restaurant is still offering dine-in services or a non-essential business is still operating outside the health order, residents can report violations to the city’s non-emergency line at 562-435-6711.
The city’s health department, police department, City Attorney’s Office and the business license bureau are coordinating to review complaints and address business violations, the memo said.