Law enforcement efforts for public health order and “4-20"

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Nader Oweis, Chief of Police

On March 31, 2020, the Santa Cruz County Health Officer extended the previously issued Public Health Order (PHO), which is at least in effect through May 3, 2020. This order applies to UC Santa Cruz as well.

The intent of this order is for individuals “to shelter in their homes to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on delivery of critical healthcare services to those in need.” Although the order does allow individuals to leave their homes for very specific essential activities, it does not allow for public or private gatherings (with limited exceptions), and individuals must strictly comply with social distancing requirements as defined in the order.

UC Santa Cruz police officers, along with other county law enforcement agencies, are working hard to ensure people are following the Public Health Order.  Recently, however, we have seen groups of individuals gathering together, from far and near, ignoring these orders and coming onto campus utilizing our trails, open spaces, and recreational areas (e.g. tennis courts, basketball courts, our meadows, bicycle and hiking trails, etc.) for prohibited activities.

Any intentional gatherings at UC Santa Cruz at this time constitute a violation of the PHO and  campus directives related to COVID-19. This includes any attempt to gather on April 20, as in recent years, for the unsanctioned "4-20." Such gatherings place our community, on and off campus, and our police officers and first responders at risk of contracting the virus causing the COVID-19 disease. This is particularly dangerous because some individuals who contract the virus are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, which means they may not be aware they carry the virus and are transmitting it to others.

Pursuant to the PHO, signs were posted on campus and areas were taped-off prohibiting access to UC Santa Cruz trails, recreational areas, etc. Unfortunately, we have since found that signs are missing, vandalized, and that some of the cordoned-off areas have had the tape removed. We continue to educate and warn individuals about prohibited activities.  

Violation of the PHO is a misdemeanor punishable by citation or arrest, with fines of $1,000 possible. Moving forward, our enforcement of the order will include issuing citations under California Health and Safety Code §120275. Individuals affiliated with the campus are also subject to sanctions by the Student Conduct Office or Human Resources.

We are committed to the health and safety of our community. As always, please do not delay in seeking assistance for yourself or others needing emergency help by dialing 911.  To report a non-emergency or a violation of the public health order and social distancing requirements, call our non-emergency line at 831.459.2231 ext. 1.

For additional information, you can access the UC Santa Cruz COVID-19 website.


  • If you are sick, call your healthcare provider and isolate yourself from others.

  • Wear a mask or face covering while around others.

  • Follow the social distancing requirements and maintain at least 6 feet from others.

  • Do not go to work if you are sick, feeling ill or on approved administrative or other approved leave. 

  • Do not come to the residential campus or other campus locations because there is something in your office that you would like to retrieve, or because you want to visit with colleagues who must work on campus. You should only be coming to a campus location if your supervisor has given you express permission to do so. Your supervisor can give you permission to come to campus on a one-time basis or as otherwise necessary.