Story and photos by Jake Rose
Miriam Raftery contributed to this report
Photos, left: Parishioners at Skyline Church flock to indoor services, many without masks
November 15, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Skyline Church in the unincorporated area of La Mesa and Shadow Mountain in El Cajon had full parking lots for Sunday morning services, despite new Purple Tier restrictions now in effect throughout the county.
Purple tier restrictions started at midnight Saturday, due to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases. Purple tier, or Tier 1, is the most restrictive level for California and comes into play when positive tests exceed 8%. Many non-essential business operations must close, places of worship, restaurants and gyms must move all activity outdoors, and retail must cut capacity to 25%.
With businesses already struggling after the initial lockdown followed by an overall slowdown due to the public’s worry about the coronavirus, this second lockdown has some businesses and places of worship around East County flouting the new restrictions.
Skyline Church, a “mega” church with a 2,500 seat auditorium, released a public statement on its website addressing the new restrictions, saying the church would continue services on Sunday despite the restrictions on indoor worship.
“We believe in facts over fear,” said a statement on Skyline’s website. “You are more likely to die from a lightning strike than the Covid-19 virus. The incredible increase in mental health issues, suicides, and overall hopelessness caused us to open in June and remain open to serve the hurting community of San Diego.”
Some attendees inside Skyline Church Sunday morning wore masks, others did not. All volunteers and security staff were wearing masks.
Pastors at Skyline said they expected a typical amount of worshippers this Sunday.
At Shadow Mountain Church on Sunday, mask wearing was not strictly enforced, but staff took temperatures of everyone entering for service. Shadow Mountain did not make any formal acknowledgement of the Purple tier status on its website or social media.
Many restaurants were prepared for the new rules and did comply with county health orders. Hacienda Casa Blanca in El Cajon, Applebee's (photo, left) and Texas Roadhouse at Parkway Plaza, all in the city of El Cajon, had 100% outdoor service, with no one being served inside.
Downtown Cafe on Main St. (photo, below left) had a few patrons inside. An employee told a reporter that they believed the new rules took effect Sunday at midnight.
Further east, Major’s Diner in Pine Valley (photo, right) served customers both inside and outside. On Sunday morning, there were more people eating indoors than out.
“We’re just doing it,” said one member of the wait staff when asked about ignoring restrictions on indoor service.
The diner’s owner has previously told media that cold weather, already as low as 30 degrees last week, would make it impossible for his business to survive without indoor service.
Violators can face fines or other penalties, even forced shutdown with businesses padlocked in some areas.
ECM is informed that at least one tipster did notify the county tip line of Skyline's announced intent to defy the rules, but no enforcement was done to prevent the violation.
But regarding enforcement of businesses or other entities flouting the rules on today, the first day of the new shutdowns under Purple Tier restrictions, the San Diego County Sheriff’s department could not be reached for comment as of Sunday afternoon.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells told KUSI news earlier this week that enforcing shutdown orders is a low priority for El Cajon Police.
Meanwhile COVID-19 rates across the nation and in San Diego County continue to skyrocket.
Today is the fifth-consecutive day that more than 600 new coronavirus cases were reported by the county. Yesterday, the county set a record of 736 new cases.
“We have not seen cases this high in months, and it’s a clear indication that COVID-19 is widespread,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.“These totals also show people are not following the public health recommendations that we know work to prevent getting and passing COVID-19.”
Nationally, over 155,000 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, with over 10 million total cases and over 244,000 people dead as the pandemic rages out of control. The nation has entered a third wave of the pandemic with a near-vertical climb in cases, as this chart from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates.
Jake Rose is a San Diego based photographer and reporter. His work has been shown in numerous galleries in San Diego, and he is the winner of the 2017 San Diego CItybeat Photography award.
Raised in San Diego and a graduate of SDSU's film program, Jake worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for a number of years before returning to San Diego for work in journalism, advertising, and corporate media. Street photography, man-made landscapes, and the human condition are the core focus of Jake's work.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting, including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/