Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, in a stirring speech before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, reiterated his determination not to back down from his refusal to enforce statewide stay-at-home orders in his county. Bianco had stated in early April that he would not set up “any type of police state” in his county.
On Wednesday, Bianco spoke as the Board considered whether to remove the county health officer’s order, including mandatory face covering and social distancing guidelines. Bianco called for the reopening of businesses as he stated:
Good afternoon. Eight weeks ago, our public health officer and the governor participated in something never done before in our nation’s history. They ordered residents into their homes, closed their businesses, made then wear masks, forbid them from going to church and eliminated constitutional freedoms put in place over 200 years ago. In the name of a public health crisis, our civil liberties and constitutional protections were placed on hold. Over the past two months, we have asked a lot from our residents so we could flatten the curve of infection to prevent our hospitals from being overcrowded: it worked.
What isn’t being emphasized is that 2,000 of the 4,300 people who have tested positive have already recovered and returned to work. What that means is that out of 2 ½ million people in Riverside County, we have only 2,300 residents positive with this virus. Statistically, that is less than a tenth of one percent.
Unfortunately, we have lost 181 of our residents to this virus, but keep in mind that that is only seven-thousandths of one percent. While the loss of any life is tragic, we must also be cognizant of the future and well-being of our county’s fiscal health and the ability to perform necessary functions. Our future success depends on the leadership of our county, to make decisions based on facts and data, not projections and fear. The fact is, everyone doesn’t have to be afraid of this virus. Without other serious medical issues, the danger of this virus is significantly lower, if not eliminated. If you are afraid of contracting this virus or you have underlying health conditions, you should stay home.
From the beginning I told you that I would not be enforcing this stay-at-home order, partly because I trusted our residents’ ability to do the right thing without the fear of being arrested. I knew that they could be trusted to act as responsible adults, and I was correct. As we continue, I will reinforce my position. Not only, do we not have the resources to enforce unreasonable orders, I refuse to make criminals out of business owners, single moms, and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights. I believe Riverside County residents are responsible enough to proceed cautiously. The original projections and fears that caused these orders to be put into place have been proven wrong. As leaders, we must adjust our decisions to better serve the county as a whole.
There cannot be a new normal. We are talking about a country formed on the fundamental freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any “new normal” is a direct attack on those basic rights which set us apart and make us the greatest country in the world.