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Pacific Beach bar closed for violating health order hours after reopening


Last updated 5/23/2020 at 12:36pm

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Hours after San Diego County reopened dine-in restaurants and retail shopping, health officials saw ``egregious'' disregard for public health orders, resulting in one business being forcibly closed and notices from law enforcement that they would ramp up enforcement over Memorial Day weekend.

A short video clip played at Friday's news briefing taken at El Prez, a popular Pacific Beach sports bar and restaurant, showed dozens of people in close physical contact without face coverings standing at the bar. The restaurant was closed by the county and will ``remain closed until further notice,'' said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

He said the vast majority of restaurateurs are following health orders and not endangering the public, but a few ``bad faith actors'' could seriously impact the county's efforts to recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Undersheriff Mike Barnett said Friday that law enforcement was ``very concerned'' with what they saw.

``We run the real risk of having a setback,'' he said. ``The San Diego Sheriff's Office provides services for nearly a million people, and we have only given out 137 citations so far and none in the past seven days. That's one-one hundredth of 1%. We are not looking to increase this.''

Even so, Barnett said law enforcement will take time away from catching ``real criminals'' to first educate, seek compliance and ultimately enforce public health orders if needed.

San Diego County reported 119 new COVID-19 cases and one death Friday, raising the region's totals to 6,434 cases and 242 deaths. The fatality reported Friday was a 35-year-old who had underlying health issues, said San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

She said the county's numbers continued to trend downward, but it would not take many incidents like what happened at El Prez to create more outbreaks, prolonging the pandemic and related health orders. San Diego County has more than 16,000 restaurants and food-preparation facilities, County Supervisor Greg Cox said Thursday.

Wooten encouraged people who witnessed businesses violating health orders to contact the non-emergency line of their local jurisdiction.

California approved the county's request Wednesday night to allow dining at restaurants and in-store shopping, both with social-distancing restrictions.

Elected officials and business leaders alike showed optimism Thursday afternoon, but also cautioned San Diegans to be patient as the new normal fits into place.

Restaurants and shops must fill out the county's Safe Reopening Plan form and post it publicly to reopen, Fletcher said in a tweet Wednesday night.

Some restaurants and shops completed this form ahead of time and are able to open today.


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