Coronavirus impact: Santa Clara County prohibits drive-by celebrations, causing confusion for police, community

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Driveby parades are the new way of celebrating during the coronavirus shelter-in-place, but they are actually not technically allowed in Santa Clara County.

Calls have been coming in about the safety of drive-by parades in the county and officials decided to make it public that they do not fall under the shelter-in-place order.

It has turned into a brewing battle between county officials and the San Jose Police Department.



The county released the below statement regarding these new community celebrations:

"The rule has been in place since the first March 16 order. The order is aimed at having people shelter in place at home, minimizing going out for anything that is not an essential function. Car parades were never envisioned as something that would be allowed, because from a public health perspective, you want to minimize public gatherings."

They detailed the entire order of the Santa Clara County Health Officer on their website.

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Officials are now pushing for enforcement after questions about graduation and other parades came in to their frequently asked questions submissions.

"Our job is to educate folks and tell them what the order says," Santa Clara County County Deputy Executive David Campos said. "What is included in that order is up to the public health officers, in this case, seven of them, that issued this order."

Campos said that the rules have been in place since day one.

Now, the county wants more action against them.

This instantly drew criticism, including from the county's biggest police department.

"Since this began, it seems like the goalposts have not just been moving for our community, but for law enforcement," San Jose Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia said. "I don't know how any police chief in this county can look at their community in the face and say while people are being released out of jail with zero bail, serious criminals, that now we are going to stop people from holding signs, driving around and wishing individuals happy birthday's or happy graduations."



Police and other law enforcement have even participated in many of these parades.

Chief Garcia himself drove by to celebrate San Jose's Mary Fierros, aka 'Rosie the Riveter' from World War II, for her 100th birthday.

Just last week a South Bay street was filled with front-line workers driving in a parade as neighbors thanked them.

RELATED: Coronavirus kindness: South San Jose neighborhood thanks front-line workers with street parade

But these celebrations are no more, a disappointment to those who were involved.

"It was more than six feet that we were all apart," Jessica Robles said. "You're staying healthy as could be. It doesn't make sense that these would get shut down."

This impacts other celebrations as well.

Graduation parades were part of the reason the county decided to reinforce these rules.

The East Side Union High School District planned to hold a drive-thru graduation at the Berryessa Flea Market parking lot.

Not anymore.

"This has really been a tough senior year and now they may lose their in-person ceremonies," ESUHSD Superintendent Chris Funk said. "It was very disappointing because we wanted to do something that wasn't just a virtual graduation."

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The County says that enforcement of the rules falls on police departments

But Chief Garcia said his department will do what they think is appropriate.

"These enforcement decisions have never taken place with any input from any of the police chiefs," Chief Garcia said. "So the enforcement that we're going to do will be warnings to our community."

The current shelter in place order that affects these parades expires in Santa Clara County on May 31, 2020.

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