City leaders fired off a letter Monday to San Joaquin County Health Director Dr. Maggie Park informing her that starting June 19 if she wants to close Manteca businesses for violating COVID-19 closure rules either her department will have to do it or she needs to get some other agency to do so.
The letter came after Manteca Police on Friday presented a printed document on city letterhead to CALFit on North Main Street stating “You are hereby ordered to cease and desist” as “this business is in violation of an executive” of COVID-19 orders.
Manteca Fire Battalion Chief Dave Marques, who oversees the city’s emergency operations center regarding COVID-19 pandemic, indicated Monday the format letter was one that was used in March when the pandemic was declared and had not been updated.
Marques said going forward if the city receives a complaint about a possible business violating COVID-19 rules, the city will print a copy off the county health department website delineating what businesses can and cannot be open to present to a business owner simply to educate with no directive given as to whether they should close. The person making the complaint will be advised if they want action taken to possibly close a specific business they will need to contact the county health department.
That way the city will fulfill its promise to help educate local businesses but will not actively engage in efforts to shut down violators.
The letter sent to Park noted the city “appreciates the difficult decisions” she has to make as the county health officer in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also points out due to the city’s lack of manpower it will not be able to engage in any enforcement action related to the pandemic with a Manteca business that may be violating county issued orders.
City officials again emphasized they are only allowed under the law to impose tougher restrictions than the county health officer and not ease county rules. They noted the police department already has its hands full dealing with other crimes and enforcing ordinances imposed by the City Council.
Monday’s decision to outline the city’s position in a formal letter to Park clears up mixed signals that had been coming for the City of Manteca regarding whether they will enforce county orders regarding business closures during the ongoing pandemic.
Manteca municipal leaders during the June 2 City Council meeting affirmed their positon they lacked the manpower to enforce San Joaquin Health Department closure orders for specific businesses connected with COVID-19 orders.
They told a citizen that spoke at the June 2 meeting concerned that small gyms would be going out of business that the owner should make the decision whether they should reopen even if they weren’t allowed to do so by health officials.
City leaders also repeated their previous position that given they are county orders, if anyone has a complaint they would refer it to the county sheriff. They also promised if the county did not allow gyms to reopen they’d take their case to the governor
Last Wednesday, June 10, CALFit reopened its North Main Street gym with all of the state recommended protocols and social distancing in place
At the start of last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom had allowed gyms and health clubs to reopen starting June 12 providing the health officials of the county where they are located concurred if was OK to do so. San Joaquin County’s top health officer — Dr. Maggie Park — decided it wasn’t a wise thing to do as in less than a week COVID-19 hospitalizations within the county more than doubled to 42 patients at that time.
On Friday, June 12, someone made a complaint to the city that CALFit was open when the county said gyms could not legally open. Later that day Manteca Police paid CALFit a visit and gave them a paper document with City of Manteca’s letterhead stating “You are hereby ordered to cease and desist” noting “this business is in violation of an executive order” regarding COVID-19 closings.
City staff indicated over the weekend that the printed notice was simply an effort to “educate” the business and that it should have been verbal.
Manteca Councilman Gary Singh indicated Sunday that those who have issue with Park’s orders should contact members of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. He noted Park is not an elected official and as such any concerns people may have with county orders are best directed to the Board of Supervisors.
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