Chula Vista takes strong stance on COVID-19 enforced rules

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Police agent Bob Lopez (center) answered questions in Spanish during a city of Chula Vista press conference in the police station courtyard April 3. Officials discussed and answered questions on the evolving government coronavirus pandemic health orders, the operation of essential businesses, physical distancing, and suggested the public’s use of face covering in public as an added protection that will not replace physical distancing. Pictured, from left, Chula Vista City Manager Gary Halbert Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy, Mayor Mary Casillas Salas, Lopez, City Attorney Glen Googins and Fire Chief Jim Geering.

On April 3, city of Chula Vista officials addressed the community to stress the importance of new measures set forth to help slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Mary Casillas Salas was joined by Chula Vista Police Department Police Chief Roxana Kennedy, Chula Vista Fire Department Fire Chief Jim Geering and City Attorney Glen Googins to address park and trail closures, available services and other measures to keep citizens safe.

They all had the same message. Stay at home as much as possible, maintain social distancing, wear facial covering while in public spaces, wash your hands frequently, keep groups to less than 10 people, and abide by the rules set forth to avoid potential enforcement actions.

Casillas Salas said Chula Vista was early in taking measures to slow down the COVID-19 virus, including the closures of libraries and recreation centers and that the city is following county and state recommendations.

“We’ve expanded our payment systems online so our residents can get the things they need,” said Salas. “Our city staff is looking at 211 systems, helping to connect our residents in need of things such as food, help, clothing and housing.”

Salas said they appreciate everyone who is helping to stop the spread of the COVID virus, and the goal is to keep first responders and residents as safe as they can be. She also said she was happy to announce that Councilman Steve Padilla was out of the ICU after being admitted for COVID-19. She said this was a stark reminder of why people need to adhere to local mandates.

“I’ve seen young people in our parks and I stop them; I tell them you’re not only putting yourself at risk, you are putting everyone in your family at risk,” said Salas.

Salas said the community will get through this together.

“The city of Chula Vista has always pulled together during crises and I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the outpouring selflessness of so many people that are offering to do things for their friends and neighbors. They are volunteering in whatever capacity they can,” said Salas.

Kennedy said that citizens’ safety is the police department’s top priority.

“We realize that everyone is sacrificing right now and the coronavirus has impacted all of us and no one has been spared,” said Kennedy. “I believe it is important to reach out to everyone in our community and provide important information and updates.”

Kennedy reminded everyone that the governor ordered citizens to stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19. She said the message she wanted to emphasize is you can stay healthy by staying home.

“The stay at home and social distancing measures have been implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Kennedy said. “I am asking you to follow the orders and guidelines. Now is the time to be creative, stay active and healthy while staying at home.”

The CVPD has been given the tools to enforce these orders, Kennedy said. She urged the community to cooperate and self-regulate.

“In the city of Chula Vista we are moving from an educational phase to an enforceable phase immediately,” said Kennedy. “Please do your part so our officers do not have to be put in the position of taking enforceable action against you.”

Violations of any of these orders are misdemeanors and punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and by imprisonment not to exceed six months, or both.

“When everyone cooperates, the shorter these public health measures will be in place and we can get back to our normal lives,” said Kennedy. “Stay at home. Do not congregate in people of 10 or more in any public or private place. If you have to go out for essential needs, practice social distancing and stay six feet away from each other. Cover your face with a mask or bandana, or a piece of clothing.”

Kennedy said they understand that this is difficult and challenging for the community who enjoys an active outside lifestyle, but necessary. She also warned about current trends across the nation showing that criminals are creating COVID-19 scams on a daily basis and encouraged people to be aware. She said people can report businesses that do not fall under essential businesses or following guidelines by calling 211 or reporting on Act Chula Vista.

“The city of Chula Vista has a long history of being a safe community. We plan to keep it that way,” said Kennedy. “Criminals that want to take advantage of the health crises preying on the most vulnerable in our community, you need to be aware. And you should be concerned. Why? Because the CVPD is coming for you. During this crisis, our officers and support staff are working around the clock to keep our community safe. You never know where we will be, we are out in force right now, and we are watching.”

Fire Chief Jim Geering said his message for the residents of Chula Vista from the 180 members of the CVFD was “we love you and that we care about you.”

“Our service and our service and our service is there for you for whenever you need it. That has not changed,” said Geering. “We’ve planned, we’ve prepared, we’ve trained and equipped ourselves to continue to respond to everyday emergencies. The COVID pandemic is a new challenge for all of us. Call 211 if you have questions about COVID-19, if you believe you have been exposed, to report a violation of the face coverage order, if you have questions about resources available. Call 911 if you have severe chest pain, if you have severe difficulty breathing, and if you have situations that require immediate assistance from police, fire or ambulance. Together, all of us can do our part to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Googins said the City appreciates the challenges and hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the community members in their professional and personal lives.

He also said he appreciates the responsible behavior of the vast majority.

“The job of the city, both in good times and in bad times is to protect the health, safety and welfare,” said Googins. “One key aspect of this is to make an enforced rules of conduct. With the next few weeks being critical it has become clear to all of us is that thought the vast majority of people are adhering to this, some are not. Accordingly, we will be ramping up our communication efforts, but also our enforcement efforts of the emergency rules of conduct. We would much prefer voluntarily compliance. This allows us to keep our focus on providing essential city services and to keep providing help to people who need it. But if necessary, more enforcement actions will be taken. This is a serious situation and we are all taking this seriously.”

Kennedy said the CVPD’s goal is not to go out and cite people and create more issues for people in the community and hopes that people in the community will comply and listen.

She said that most times there will be a warning on the first attempt, but if they continue to create issues, the CVPD will start citing individuals.