ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — The sheriff of Orange County, California, released a statement Saturday explaining that residents complying with state health orders will be a matter of “personal responsibility” and that his department will not be enforcing the new stay-at-home order, Daily Wire reported.
“The ever-changing nature of these orders, and the increase of COVID-19 case numbers bring additional uncertainty and stress to California residents,” said Sheriff Don Barnes.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will remain consistent in our approach,” added Barnes. “Orange County Sheriff’s deputies will not be dispatched to, or respond to, calls for service to enforce compliance with face coverings, social gatherings, or stay-at-home orders only. Deputies will respond to calls for potential criminal behavior and for the protection of life and property. Our actions remain consistent with the protections of constitutional rights.”
Earlier this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a new metric for triggering stay-at-home orders across the state: If the number of available hospital ICU beds falls below 15% in a region — the five regions being Southern California, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area, and Sacramento Area — a stay-at-home order will go into effect. According to ABC-30, the governor has maintained that compliance for the stay-at-home orders will fall to local officials and has warned of consequences for not enforcing them, such as redirecting funding earmarked for COVID-19 purposes away from the area.
Although Sheriff Barnes was clear to say people should be wearing face masks and social distancing of their own volition, he remained steadfast as he suggested that politicians have been putting law enforcement in a bind as to what is and isn’t expected of them.
“To put the onus on law enforcement to enforce these orders against law abiding citizens who are already struggling through difficult circumstances, while at the same time criticizing law enforcement and taking away tools to do our job, is both contradictory and disingenuous,” said Barnes on Saturday.
Policymakers, he added, “must not penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding our mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms.”
Please see my statement regarding Southern California being placed under the Governor’s regional stay-at-home order. pic.twitter.com/lgvvHGnasp
— OC Sheriff Don Barnes (@OCSheriffBarnes) December 5, 2020
Under the stay-at-home order, restaurants in the region must close all indoor and outdoor dining, and shopping centers must limit indoor capacity to 20%. Movie theaters, playgrounds, museums, and hair and nail salons must close, and overnight camping is prohibited. Houses of worship can remain open for outdoor activities only, and schools that have received waivers to open prior to a stay-at-home order can continue to operate.
“The bottom line is if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” said Newsom, who recently warned that every region in the state is expected to hit the 15% ICU threshold in December. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see a death rate climb, more lives lost.”
In neighboring Riverside County, Sheriff Chad Bianco concurred with Sheriff Barnes, although he was more expressive as he referred to Newsom as having a “dictatorial attitude,” Law Officer reported.
“We have all recently learned of the new regional approach to combating COVID-19 and the pending closure and stay-at-home orders from our Governor,” Sheriff Bianco began. “We were also told that there was a potential he would be withholding federal and state funding from counties who did not enforce the orders. Ironically, it wasn’t that long ago our same governor loudly and publicly argued how wrong it was for the President of the United States to withhold federal funding from states not complying with federal laws.”
“The dictatorial attitude toward California residents while dining in luxury, traveling, keeping his business open, and sending his kids to in-person private schools is very telling about his attitude toward California residents, his feelings about the virus, and it is extremely hypocritical,” Bianco continued. “These closures and stay-at-home orders are flat-out ridiculous. The metrics used for closures are unbelievably faulty and are not representative of true numbers and are disastrous for Riverside County. When the medical field is so split about this virus, it might be time to employ a little common sense.”
“Keeping money and support from our hospitals who are struggling with normal seasonal increases in patients, coupled with COVID-19 patients, is irresponsible,” he continued. “It appears part of the new goal is to shift attention away from his and other’s personal behavior with a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude by turning public opinion against California Sheriffs. He is expecting us to arrest anyone violating these orders, cite them and take their money, close their businesses, make them stay in their homes, and take away their civil liberties or he will punish all of us. I believe that all jobs are essential to someone. Leaders do not threaten, attempt to intimidate, or cause fear; bullies do.”
“As has been our position from the beginning of this pandemic, the Sheriff’s Department is asking and expecting Riverside County residents to act responsibly and do what they can to protect themselves and their family from contracting the virus,” he concluded. “Wear your mask and practice social distancing. While the Governor’s office and the state has threatened action against violators, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department will not be blackmailed, bullied, or used as muscle against Riverside County residents in the enforcement of the Governor’s orders. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a safe and happy New Year.”