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California county outlaws car parades, but one sheriff refuses to enforce ban on drive-thru celebrations

'I need someone to explain to us how driving in a vehicle with your family to wish someone a happy birthday increases the chances of the COVID-19.'

Mario Tama/Getty Images

With the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing restrictions, Americans have been forced to change their lifestyles dramatically. The COVID-19 quarantine means that social gatherings are now banned, and people have mostly complied with the new rules. Some people have decided to safely celebrate special events such as birthdays and graduations by organizing car parades. Now, one California county has outlawed car parades, even if the participants stay in their vehicles.

Santa Clara County, which is about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, has banned car parades, caravans, and drive-thru graduations.

From the Santa Clara County website:

"The order prohibits all public and private gatherings with people who do not live in the same household or living unit, except for the limited purposes allowed in the order. Parades, ceremonies, and similar gatherings with people outside your household are not allowed, even if everyone stays in their cars."

East Side Union School District Superintendent Chris Funk said the schools in his district had planned a drive-thru graduation for the class of 2020. The celebration was scheduled to take place at a flea market parking lot, but the county's emergency center quashed the graduation.

"I get public health's concern that we might not be able to control the crowd outside of the location," Funk told KRON4. "We would do a drive-thru, but we can certainly control who enters the drive-thru."

"There's definitely a frustration on our part not being able to recognized at least having a drive-thru graduation," Funk said.

There had been previous parades, including one for the Sakamoto Elementary School in San Jose.

San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the ban on street parades is "incredibly frustrating," and the "goalposts are moving for law enforcement."

"Since day one, these orders have been ridiculously difficult to enforce," Garcia told reporters.

"I don't know how any police chief in this county, could look at their community in the face and say, 'While people are being released out of jails on zero bail, serious criminals, that now we're going to stop people from holding signs, driving around, and wishing individuals happy birthdays or happy graduations.' I certainly can't look at my community credibly and tell them that," Garcia said.

Garcia said he refuses to enforce the ban on car parades.

"Unless there's a blatant violation, we'll continue with warnings," he said.

Garcia tweeted: "I should've probably toned it down as I discussed enforcement on the new imminent threat to San Jose, not felons with guns, not armed robbers, burglars, or criminal street gangs, but the new scourge... CAR PARADES!"

"I need someone to explain to us how driving in a vehicle with your family to wish someone a happy birthday increases the chances of the COVID-19," Garcia said. "We can go to supermarkets every day, yet you can't drive around to wish someone a happy birthday."

According to Santa Clara County's Public Health website, there are over 2,200 confirmed coronavirus cases in the county and 127 deaths. Santa Clara County has a population of over 1.9 million.

Earlier this week, another California sheriff proclaimed that he would not enforce the state-mandated shelter-in-place order because he won't "make criminals out of business owners, single moms, and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights."

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco delivered a stirring speech during a board of supervisors meeting where he announced that he will refuse to enforce lockdown orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"From the beginning, I told you that I would not be enforcing this stay-at-home order, partly because I trusted our residents' ability to do the right thing without the fear of being arrested," Bianco on Wednesday. "I knew that they could be trusted to act as responsible adults, and I was correct."

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