Deputies shut down pop-up car show at Loma Linda hospital garage that drew thousands of people

Stuck at home for months amid the still raging COVID-19 pandemic, worshippers at Loma Linda University’s on-campus Seventh Day Adventist church mostly made due with online services.

On Saturday, members of the church’s youth ministry were hoping for something different. They planned a small drive-thru event near the university’s hospital. Up to 20 cars were expected.

Instead, 3,000 people showed up.

Sheriff’s deputies had to disperse the crowds. The event violated the state rule prohibiting large gatherings. And the car show now has sparked health concerns as San Bernardino County continues to deal with widespread coronavirus outbreaks.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” said Konrad Bolowich, an assistant city manager for Loma Linda. “The last thing we want is to be the ground zero for some super spreader event.”

Flood of calls

At around 9 p.m. Saturday, a flood of calls came into the county Sheriff’s Department. Residents were reporting a traffic jam near the hospital’s parking garage. Callers said numerous cars were backed up inside the structure.

Videos of the event show large groups of attendees — many wearing masks, others not — huddled around sports cars and luxury vehicles as they slowly drive through the garage.

The structure is located less than a block from the hospital entrance.

“It was discovered that hundreds of vehicles and individuals showed up for a charity car show and it quickly became overpopulated and was shut down,” said Cynthia Bachman, a Sheriff’s spokeswoman.

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