L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Eyes a Crackdown on ‘Super-Spreader Events’

On Thursday, he also said his department won’t go after businesses if new state-level restrictions are imposed

As L.A. County tries to stem the current explosion in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations by banning gatherings among people who don’t live in the same household—part of a so-called “targeted stay-at-home order” that went into effect Monday—Sheriff Alex Villanueva tweeted that his department will be zeroing in on some of the county’s most flagrant coronavirus scofflaws.

“Since March we have continued to focus on education and voluntary compliance regarding health orders. Moving forward, we will additionally be conducting targeted enforcement on super-spreader events,” Villanueva said in a tweet dispatched on Thursday.

As ABC 7 notes, Villanueva didn’t specify what he means by “super-spreader,” but in recent months a number of large events have made headlines, including a slew of Hollywood Hills house parties over the summer. The ultimate cautionary tale has been a California couple’s 55-person wedding in Millinocket, Maine, which is believed to have led to a total of 176 COVID cases.

In an interview with Fox 11 on the same day he dispatched the tweet regarding superspreader events, Villanueva said he won’t, however, enforce possibly forthcoming state-level stay-at-home orders at businesses.

“I want to stay away from businesses that are trying to comply the best they can,” he said. “They bent over backwards to modify their entire operation to conform to these current health orders, and then they have the rug yanked out from under them, that’s a disservice. I don’t want to make their lives any more miserable.”

The new county-level restrictions cap capacity at 20 percent at non-essential retail businesses and 35 percent at essential retail businesses, and allows salons and other personal care businesses to continue operating at 20 percent capacity. New regional restrictions announced by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, which will go into place when that region’s ICU capacity slips below 15 percent, would, however, mandate that salons and personal care businesses temporarily shut down, along with in-person dining and playgrounds, which are both already shuttered in most of L.A. County. (Pasadena has elected to allow outdoor dining to continue.)

Villanueva’s announcement comes just weeks after the Board of Supervisors voted to explore cutting his term short. It also comes as L.A. County continues to set alarming new records. There were 7,854 new cases on Thursday, up from the previous daily record of 7,593 set on Tuesday.

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