For weeks, people across the Bay Area have lined up in car parades to celebrate birthdays, show off classic vehicles and cheer up neighbors — sometimes driving alongside members of law enforcement agencies and local officials, who joined in celebrations like the one honoring “Rosie the Riveter” on her 100th birthday last month.
But those gatherings are now expressly forbidden in Santa Clara County, according to new guidance issued by local officials — much to the chagrin of community members and school districts who had planned their own upcoming drive-by celebrations in lieu of traditional pomp and circumstance.
“The reality is that the rule has always been there, the prohibition has always been in place — but we recognize the issue was not clear to some people,” deputy Santa Clara County executive David Campos said Wednesday.
“Parades, ceremonies, and similar gatherings with people outside your household are not allowed, even if everyone stays in their cars,” the county now states on its website. As of Wednesday, Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department was the only one in the Bay Area that had added this language to its shelter in place guidance.
The prohibition has surprised — and frustrated — some residents, suddenly restricting one of the few ways that people have been able to act collectively since the county’s shelter in place order went into effect in March. In several cases, law enforcement agencies have themselves joined in the car parades and drive-by celebrations.
The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department, for instance, has led dozens of special driving birthday celebrations for children in the community since the county’s shelter-in-place order took effect, documenting the caravans on Youtube. On April 20, San Jose Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia, along with City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, showed up at the socially-distanced 100th birthday party for Mary Fierros, the original “Rosie the Riveter.”
Because of the challenges of enforcing the order — which is already littered with gray areas — Garcia said, the San Jose Police Department is refraining from issuing misdemeanor citations for violations in favor of stern warnings.
“We’re letting serious criminals out of our jails, and you expect me to threaten to cite and arrest otherwise law-abiding citizens for just walking on the street?” Garcia said, referencing jail de-population measures that have been taken to lower the risk of spreading coronavirus. “That’s not credible, and that’s not going to happen.”
The ban also vexed some school districts that had hoped to host drive-through graduation ceremonies. San Jose’s East Side Union School District, for instance, had planned to partner with the Berryessa Flea Market to host a ceremony in the parking lot.
Car celebrations are banned, the county clarified this week, frustrating both law enforcement and school districts.