Is LA Mayor Garcetti right to shut down utilities for large gatherings?
- On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the authorization to shut off water and power service to properties hosting large house parties, mentioning they had 'essentially become nightclubs in the hills.'
- If properties continually host parties, LA County will provide notice and initiate the process to request that water and power be shut off within the next 48 hours.
- As of August 7, the Public Health Department has identified 201,106 positive cases of COVID-19 in L.A. County, and a total of 4,869 deaths. On Thursday, the number of new deaths reported was 48.
- The CDC recommends limiting gatherings; “the more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading.”
Shutting down utilities as a means to discourage house parties may prevent an onslaught of future COVID-19 cases, as the chances of community spread increases the more one is exposed to individuals who may be carrying coronavirus. Mayor Garcetti is merely fulfilling his civic duty to all LA residents by trying to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Because COVID-19 spreads from person to person, the CDC has consistently presented social distancing as the best solution to limit cases of the disease. As one can imagine, going to recreational house parties, like the ones impacted by this order, does not leave much room for social distancing.
Based on tracers, about 10% of COVID carriers may be responsible for 80% of cases in large social gatherings. Instances such as the 60-person choir rehearsal where over 45 members got infected, and the Albany funeral that caused a coronavirus hotspot also show the detrimental effects of large congregations.
This new order comes in the wake of spiking COVID rates across California and a rise in community transmission throughout LA. Mayor Garcetti is backed by the county’s public health department that reiterates how high-risk such parties are.
Also, let’s not forget that this only applies to house parties--parties held with no purpose other than socializing. The guise of having a house party thinking “no one I know has COVID” is irresponsible and ignorant. COVID-19 can spread asymptomatically and pre-symptomatically, so a person can infect others without showing any symptoms.
Lastly, house parties don’t just endanger the attendees, but all who the attendees interact with over the next few weeks.
Mayor Garcetti is overstepping his authority by threatening to shut off utilities of Los Angeles residents not abiding by his COVID-19 directives. Garcetti has continually implemented extreme mandates, and this threat is no exception.
A Massachusetts town attempted similar action against vacation homes, but it was forced to allow the order to expire when faced with the fact that the ordinance violated Section 1 of the 14th Amendment pertaining to due process.
Few would argue that in-home and nightclub gatherings put people at risk. However, the hypocrisy of L.A. explicitly allowing protests to continue, while threatening in-home get-togethers with a cut-off of services is inconsistent at best and illegal at worst. This policy exemplifies L.A.’s unwillingness to apply stipulations in an even-handed manner since both scenarios skew toward groups in their teens to 30s.
Shutting off power and water, while making a punitive point, creates other risks. It eliminates the ability to cook or clean, for example, which, in turn, puts people further at risk, as it requires additional outings outside the home to secure food and do laundry. The risk to others could be substantial if--as the city would argue--people likely were exposed to COVID during their gathering. Issuing hefty fines might be more effective.
The fact is, regardless of the law, some will always push boundaries. Self-governance is both a right and a responsibility. One’s decision to be unwise in their own stewardship doesn’t exempt them from consequences, though in this case, health repercussions may be sufficient. While L.A. has the right to penalize people, it needs to show consistency and impartiality in how and what it sanctions.