The past weeks have seen a number of large gatherings defy social distancing orders. From “COVID parties” to church camps, the news is rife with such gatherings, often resulting in avoidable COVID-19 infections. Now, officials in one major US city are getting serious about cracking down. The mayor of Los Angeles announced on Wednesday, August 5 that houses hosting large parties could have their water and power shut off.
Large Parties in Los Angeles
“Recently, we’ve seen the reports of some large parties and gatherings in flagrant violations of health orders,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an August 5 statement to press. “As our County Department of Public Health said yesterday, and I quote, ‘The highest risk settings are large in-person gatherings where it’s difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and where face coverings are not worn.'”
In particular, Garcetti mentioned a huge party that took place in the city’s Beverly Crest neighborhood on Monday night, August 3. Not only does aerial footage of the Mulholland Drive party reveal a total lack of social distancing, but the get-together also ended in a deadly shooting. The Los Angeles Fire Department reports that two people were injured and one killed in the incident.
“These superspreader events and superspreader people have a disproportionate impact on the lives that we are losing,” Garcetti said. The mayor noted that some research indicates that 10% of people cause 80% of the spread of COVID-19. “[W]e cannot let that happen like we saw on Mulholland Drive on Monday night.”
To that end, Mayor Garcetti announced new and harsh punishments for houses caught hosting large parties in Los Angeles county.
“[T]onight I am authorizing the city to shut off Los Angeles Department of Water and Power service in the egregious cases in which houses, businesses and other venues are hosting unpermitted large gatherings,” he said. “Starting on Friday night if the LAPD responds and verifies that a large gathering is occuring at a property, and we see these properties re-offending time and time again, they will provide notice and initiate the process to request that DWP shut off service within the next 48 hours.”
Garcetti went on to clarify that these penalties would only be leveled against serious offenders.
“To be clear, while we hope that you will avoid gatherings of all sizes, this enforcement is not focused on small and ordinary group gatherings in people’s homes,” he said. “These are focused on the people determined to break the rules, posing significant public dangers and a threat to all of us.”
The announcement follows a motion from Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu to crack down on “COVID party houses.” It seeks to increase options for penalties and deterrence against property owners who hold large gatherings, says NPR.
The outlet also notes that Garcetti’s move isn’t totally unprecedented. Back in June, a gym in Oxford, Massachusets had its utilities shut off for repeatedly defying state-wide shut down orders.
Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer endorsed Garcetti’s message, urging citizens to be patient.
“We can and will one day get to the point where hanging out with a group of friends is possible,” Ferrer said. “But we aren’t there yet.”