California creates 'strike teams' to enforce virus limits

California is creating “strike teams” from 10 state agencies to enforce guidelines designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

Posted: Jul 2, 2020 8:47 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is creating “strike teams” from 10 state agencies to enforce guidelines designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

He said the teams would “go after people that are thumbing their nose, that are particularly being aggressive, reticent to do anything.”

He singled out bars, restaurants, meat packing plants and other facilities that he said may be putting employees as well as customers at risk.

The teams include representatives from the California Highway Patrol; the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, as well as people from Alcohol Beverage Control; Barbering & Cosmetology; Business Oversight; Consumer Affairs; Food and Agriculture; Labor Commissioner’s Office; and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

“It’s more education. I’m not coming out with a fist,” Newsom insisted, but those on the strike team have licensing and enforcement power over a broad array of businesses that are subject to stringent guidelines.

The Democratic governor on Wednesday broadened restrictions across much of the state on bars, indoor dining, movie theaters, gambling and others in places where he said crowds over the long Independence Day weekend would be particularly vulnerable.

Health and law enforcement and other officials in some counties have publicly said they will not enforce the state health orders. Newsom said the state is stepping in “from a code and licensing perspective.”

The agencies will have a central reporting system for complaints from residents, local health officials or law enforcement so they can spot businesses with repeated offenses or those openly flaunting the orders, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for California’s Office of Emergency Services, which will oversee the program.

There won’t be roving bands of state inspectors, he said, but the various agencies will continue doing their jobs in a more coordinated manner focusing on those repeat violators.

”The idea here is really to target those who are in open defiance,” Ferguson said. “The goal is not to create stress on individual citizens who took their masks down to have a drink of water or forgot it at the gas station.”

Jot Condi, who heads the California Restaurant Association, said the announcement leaves many questions.

“Will this apply to customers who refuse to wear a face mask, for whatever reason?” he asked. “Will that kick in an enforcement action that is a burden on the restaurant?”

The teams will initially focus on 19 of the state’s 58 counties that have the most restrictions because of concerns about coronavirus in their communities, said Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci. Those counties include nearly three-quarters of the population.

Enforcement officials will first seek cooperation with local health officials and business owners, he said, which has been the state’s approach with rules throughout the pandemic. But if they find violations, the teams will leverage their enforcement and regulatory authorities to enforce the public health orders, he said.

Fred Jones, attorney for the Professional Beauty Federation of California, said it’s appropriate to have the Board of Barbering & Cosmetology participate, as that agency has sole authority to regulate barber and beauty shops.

But he warned of legal challenges if the teams enforce emergency orders that have not been approved by state lawmakers or through the usual regulatory process.

“Even if we may question the legality, we don’t question the perception and the importance of setting our clientele at ease,” Jones said. “So we are going to abide by those protocols.”

Masks and social distancing to prevent crowds are intended to slow the spread the virus. For most people, the new coronavirus 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.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 526685

Reported Deaths: 9684
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1958054760
Riverside38487738
Orange38066653
San Bernardino34017477
San Diego30516568
Kern21228151
Fresno15759138
San Joaquin11958180
Alameda11909192
Santa Clara11030192
Sacramento10174148
Tulare9990193
Imperial9513232
Stanislaus9308135
Contra Costa8176131
Ventura787777
San Francisco698961
Santa Barbara652663
San Mateo5744120
Marin518076
Monterey496634
Merced458351
Kings445356
Solano380638
Sonoma311339
Madera211432
Placer195318
San Luis Obispo192616
Yolo161442
Santa Cruz11964
Butte10128
Napa9809
Sutter8406
San Benito6894
El Dorado6681
Lassen6320
Yuba5334
Shasta3979
Colusa3574
Mendocino3419
Glenn3321
Nevada3161
Tehama2461
Humboldt2454
Lake2111
Mono1451
Tuolumne1442
Amador1370
Calaveras1361
Del Norte900
Siskiyou880
Inyo641
Mariposa592
Plumas330
Trinity50
Modoc40
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
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Oroville
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Paradise
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Chester
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Willows
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It was a slightly cooler day for northern California today, but a more significant cooling is arriving tomorrow, along with a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms over the mountains of northwest California.
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