Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes announced Thursday that his deputies are not responding to calls over masks and social gatherings under Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest stay-at-home order.
Newsom issued a new partial lockdown order scheduled to take effect on Saturday night to combat the coronavirus. Barnes responded to the announcement by saying that his already stretched department would not rigorously enforce new regulations over masking and crowd sizes.
“Earlier today, the Orange County sheriff’s department became aware of a limited Stay at Home Order that Governor Newsom’s office ordered to go into effect on Saturday, November 21 at 10 PM,” Barnes said in a statement. “Throughout the pandemic, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has taken an education-first approach with regard to the public health orders. We are currently assessing the action by the governor. At this time, due to the need to have deputies available for emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement.”
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSheriff) November 20, 2020
The California Department of Public Health issued the partial lockdown order on Thursday, banning activities deemed nonessential between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in all counties at the highest warning level of COVID cases. The new rules will last through Dec. 21, or possibly longer, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”
Newsom has been dealing with intense blowback after he appeared to violate his own regulations and advice when he attended a ritzy birthday party with about a dozen others present on Nov. 6. As The Daily Wire reports:
The governor has faced harsh criticism after a report published by the San Francisco Chronicle last week revealed he had attended the dinner party that “brought together at least 12 people to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jason Kinney,” described as a lobbyist and “longtime friend and political adviser to Newsom.” State guidelines at the time prohibited social gatherings that included more than three households and have since become even more restrictive. “Representatives for Kinney and Newsom declined to specify how many households the diners represented, but did not dispute that it was more than three,” the report said.
When Newsom apologized for making “a bad mistake” on Monday, he described the dinner as taking place at an “outdoor restaurant” in a county that, on Nov. 6, imposed “relatively loose” restrictions.
However, the FOX report notes that “the photo appears to show the dinner being mostly indoors with sliding glass doors opened up for air.”