By Miriam Raftery
October 30, 2020 (San Diego) – The County Health Department has sent cease and desist orders to multiple fraternity and sorority houses at San Diego State University, along with two other addresses, prior to Halloween weekend. The letters, signed by Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten, states that the venues “intend to hold large gatherings on October 30, 2020–November 1, 2020” in violation of the county’s public health order and state guidelines.
Failure to comply will result in “criminal misdemeanor citations with a $1,000 fine for each violation,” the letters state. County rules prohibit private gatherings of more than three households due to COVID-19.
The threat of criminal penalties and fines comes after SDSU reported more than 1,300 COVID cases since August, a surge that threatens to push San Diego County, currently in the state's red tier, into the most restrictive purple tier that would force many businesses to shut down indoor activities.
The letters were sent to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, as well as residences at 5045 College Avenue and 5131 Ewing Street.
“We were compelled to take this action because there is a great deal at stake. Let me be very clear, the region’s livelihood hangs in the balance and is directly tied to our individual and collective actions,” Dr. Wooten says. “We are on the brink of moving to a more restrictive tier. Know that our place on one tier or another is not based on the state’s assessment, it is intrinsically tied to our personal and common efforts. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is increased when we come in contact with individuals outside our households. Every decision each of us makes should be guided by that knowledge.”
SDSU issued the following statement:
SDSU is fully supportive of the cease and desist order Dr. Wilma J. Wooten issued to the region’s higher education community. Since last spring, SDSU has worked with county public health officials to encourage that all students, faculty and staff adhere to public health guidelines and our state’s public health orders. Students should not be hosting or attending parties and should not be attending any in-person gathering that is not in compliance with public health directives.
In preparation for Halloween, University Police will be increasing patrols at campus-owned properties and areas that fall within the university’s jurisdiction. The San Diego Police Department has committed resources to calls for service regarding loud parties in the College Area this weekend and will take appropriate action. Elite Security will also be on and around campus monitoring activities tonight, Thursday, and through the Halloween weekend. SDSU will continue to seek disciplinary action against those who engage in behaviors that violate COVID-19 student code of conduct policies and put themselves and others at risk of contracting COVID-19.
SDSU will continue to enforce institutional student code of conduct policies, on and off campus, which are in alignment with the public health orders. Since Aug. 24, nearly 970 notices of alleged violations of COVID-19-related student code of conduct policies have been issued. Those found to be in violation face disciplinary sanctions, including suspension and expulsion. Due to ongoing investigations and the judicial process, as well as privacy restrictions, the university cannot provide specific details about the notices or the individuals or organizations involved.