Several San Diego community outbreaks of COVID-19 linked to gatherings at homes

Posted at 3:34 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 21:05:56-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — From birthdays to barbecues, there have been five community outbreaks linked to private parties at homes.

A spokesperson for the County of San Diego said the outbreaks happened just after Easter through mid-June, and 33 people tested positive for COVID-19.

Three of the residential outbreaks are still active, while two have expired. The outbreaks at private residences have caused health officials to worry, especially with the 4th of July quickly approaching.

"People who wanted to get together with friends after a period of not being able to do so are having gatherings of maybe 10 to 25 people," said Dr. Eric Mcdonald, director of the county’s epidemiology and immunization department. "They’re eating, and they’re drinking and not maintaining social distance."

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McDonald said this activity concerns him just as much as anything out in the commercial sector. He said businesses might even be safer as they have specific plans and employees trained to reduce the risk for COVID-19.

He added that impromptu gatherings with friends are a problem because people are relaxed in that setting and let their guard down, not maintaining social distance.

“It was rough for me, I was sick for about six weeks,” said Andrea Cardenas, who contracted COVID-19 in March.

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The 28-year-old was healthy with no underlying conditions before COVID-19 but suffered from complications with breathing when she became ill. She still deals with lingering effects now.

“I’ll go walk my dog, and I’m still having difficulty breathing when I get home,” she said.

For someone who experienced how troubling the virus can be, the fact that many people are now mixing with friends and extended family, going against the county’s public health order, does not sit well.

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“It’s really disheartening to see that people are still not getting it,” she said. “Even if you feel fine, you could be a carrier.”

The county officials have said it is up to law enforcement agencies to decide how to enforce the rules when it comes to gatherings, social distancing, and facial coverings.

However, many officers feel like their hands are tied.

A spokesperson from the San Diego Police Department said, “We do not and will not go into private homes to enforce any of the county health orders.” Private residences cannot be entered without legal authority. It is imperative the public does their part and takes responsibility to limit the spread of the virus.”

ABC 10News heard from several law enforcement agencies across the county, including the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Chula Vista, Coronado, La Mesa, and El Cajon Police Departments.

Many said they have been focusing on education first or giving warnings when they see violations. Actual enforcement has been the last resort option.

The departments have been relying on community members to comply with the public health order and do their part to slow the spread, which includes social distancing, wearing a facial covering in public, and washing your hands.

“I think it’s our social responsibility to really take this seriously,” said Cardenas.