Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes announced that deputies would not enforce the regional stay-at-home order that was scheduled to go into effect Dec. 6 throughout Southern California.
“Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement,” Barnes said in a Dec. 5 news release.
“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.”
A state-mandated, regional stay-at-home order was scheduled to go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 6. The mandate was triggered when intensive care unit (ICU) bed availability remained below 15 percent after the Southern California region’s Dec. 5 daily COVID-19 case-rate update, according to the California Department of Public Health.
In his statement, Barnes said deputies would continue to respond to calls for potential criminal behavior and the protection of life and property, actions he said remain “consistent with the protections of constitutional rights.”
But he said the “ever-changing nature” of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders and the increase in COVID-19 case numbers “bring additional uncertainty and stress to California residents.”
“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 jobs, is both contradictory and disingenuous,” he said.
He cautioned that people should remain diligent in preventing the spread of the disease, and should take the recommended public health precautions like wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.
“Conversely, policy makers must not penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms,” Barnes stated.
Citing rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths over the past month, Newsom on Dec. 3 announced plans for regional stay-at-home orders that would be triggered when ICU bed availability in select areas fell below 15 percent.