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California Sheriff Says He Won't Enforce Gov. Newsom's COVID Restrictions, 'Compliance is Not a Matter of Law Enforcement'

12-06-2020
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A sheriff in California said he will not uphold Gov. Gavin Newsom's new COVID-19 lockdown order against residents, which takes effect on Sunday.

Newsom announced the initiative on Thursday. The rules are said to be more restrictive than the first statewide stay-at-home order he issued in March.

But Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes released a statement on Saturday, revealing that deputies will not respond to calls for enforcement of mask-wearing, group gatherings, or stay-at-home orders.

"Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement," the release reads. "The Orange County Sheriff's Office will remain consistent in our approach. Orange County Sheriff's deputies will not be dispatch 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 the protection of life and property. Our actions remain consistent with the protections of constitutional rights."

Barnes said residents should abide by recommendations from the health department in an effort to prevent spreading the virus. But government officials shouldn't "penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms." 

He added, "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 our tools to do our jobs is both contradictory and disingenuous."

This comes after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Wednesday that it was "time to cancel everything" as he banned all forms of travel and ordered residents to stay in their homes.

Garcetti asked the Los Angeles Police Department and the city's attorney to "vigorously enforce" his orders.

"My message couldn't be simpler," he declared. "It's time to hunker down. It's time to cancel everything. And if it isn't essential, don't do it."

Meanwhile, some state residents say the widespread order wrongfully combines too many counties together into regions.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, a Republican who represents San Luis Obispo said some of the measures are ridiculous.

"I feel like it's absurd. That's how I feel. It's a joke," he declared. "I mean, first of all we are 220 miles away from Los Angeles."

And Cunningham contends that the economy has already upturned from the effects of COVID. "We've got small businesses that are losing everything, everything they have," he said.  

Oakland nail salon owner Michelle Saunders James was distraught over the idea of closing her business again - just five weeks after reopening.

"We wear (face) shields. We take temperatures. We do everything we are told to do so everyone feels safe, including our staff and team," she told KGO-TV. "So I don't understand why it's not enough, and I'm terribly sad and afraid."

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