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.
“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.
But the Orange County sheriff, who was clear to say people should be wearing face masks and social distancing of their own volition, also 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.”