Coronavirus Update

Orange County Sheriff Won’t Enforce New California Stay-at-Home Order

Police watch as people gather near Huntington Beach Pier to protest California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order to temporarily close state and local beaches in Orange County, May 1, 2020. (Kyle Grillot/Reuters)

Orange County, Calif. Sheriff Don Barnes said Saturday his deputies would not enforce Governor Gavin Newsom’s new restrictive stay-at-home order which takes effect Sunday in parts of the state that have fallen below 15 percent intensive care unit capacity availability in hospitals. 

The order, which bans indoor dining at restaurants, closes bars, hair salons, movie theaters and playgrounds, and also limits retail stores and shopping centers to 20 percent customer capacity, will take effect in the southern part of the state as well as the San Joaquin Valley on Sunday. 

The restrictions, which also prohibit gatherings of any size and require people to wear masks and practice physical distancing in public, will stay in place for at least three weeks once triggered.

“Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement,” Barnes said in a statement shared on Twitter. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will remain consistent in our approach.”

Deputies will not respond to calls only to enforce mask-wearing, social distancing, or social gathering restrictions, Barnes said. Instead, they will “respond to calls for potential criminal behavior and for the protection of life and property.”

“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,” he said. 

He encouraged residents to follow health guidance to mitigate the spread of the virus, but said policymakers shouldn’t “penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms.”

On Thursday, San Mateo County, Calif. Said that it would not immediately enforce the new restrictions and would instead work with the community and businesses to enforce the restrictions once San Mateo falls below 15 percent ICU capacity availability, which could happen by the middle of the month.

“We know our residents have sacrificed and patience is growing thin, but we need you to know that you have the power to curb the spread and preserve hospital capacity for those who will need care in the coming weeks. We can get through this together if each of us takes action now to social distance, wear face coverings and avoid gatherings,” County Manager Michael Callagy said.

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