Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Michael McGough
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the statewide order Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday requiring masks and face coverings in public as coronavirus cases continue to increase in California.
In a statement Friday, the Sheriff’s Office recommended people should be “exercising safe practices” during the pandemic, including wearing masks, but said it would be “inappropriate” would criminally enforce the governor’s order, or target people and businesses for failing to do so.
“Due to the minor nature of the offense, the potential for negative outcomes during enforcement encounters, and anticipating the various ways in which the order may be violated, it would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce the Governor’s mandate,” a statement from Sheriff Scott Jones said.
Instead, deputies will be operating “in an educational capacity” — an enforcement stance that the office has maintained for months with regard to social distancing protocols, even as various health orders locally and statewide have come down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Sheriff’s Office employees will comply with Newsom’s new order “to the extent feasible,” according to Jones’ statement.
Sacramento County public health officials have observed a recent spike in coronavirus activity, which contact tracers have attributed to large gatherings like parties inside people’s homes where attendees have not worn masks or maintained physical distance.
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As of Friday morning, the county had recorded 1,976 lab-positive cases of COVID-19 and 67 deaths. More than 475 cases and 22 deaths have occurred in unincorporated county areas or in Rancho Cordova, areas where Sheriff’s Office deputies have routine patrols.
Across California, more than 160,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 5,300 have died, state health officials said in a Thursday update.
Will Sacramento-area agencies enforce statewide mask order?
A few other local law enforcement agencies in the Sacramento area aside from the Sheriff’s Office have explicitly said that they won’t enforce the order.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing Newsom’s new order, according to spokeswoman Angela Musallam.
“We do hope (people) will take the rule to heart, but we have no interest in arresting or penalizing people who aren’t wearing masks in any way,” she said.
The Sheriff’s Office will be directing residents with concerns about businesses or groups that are out of compliance to the governor’s office, Musallam said.
The Placerville Police Department, in a Facebook post Thursday shortly after the government’s announcement, asked residents not to call police dispatch to report mask violations and to “use common sense and keep yourself safe.”
“This is not a police issue,” the Placerville Police Department wrote.
The mask order, as issued Thursday by Newsom and the state Department of Public Health, does not list or recommend any criminal penalties or enforcement protocols for violators.
Some agencies have indicated they will likely not be enforcing Newsom’s new order, such as Roseville Police Department.
“No law enforcement agency wants to be responsible for shutting down a gathering or citing people who are out of compliance,” the department wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “If the need arises, we’ll work with our partners in Placer County Health and Human Services and City of Roseville Code Enforcement to ensure everyone understands the requirements and is working towards compliance.”
Officials with Yolo County, which has had its own mask requirement in place since late April, said that enforcement will still only be taken against non-complying businesses rather than individuals. Education is still the main approach to getting people to stay safe, however.
“The regular person on the street is likely not going to be given a citation,” said county spokeswoman Jenny Tan. “Businesses must make a good faith effort. When someone comes into a business or restaurant or gym, they have to say, ‘Hey, please wear a face covering.’ “
Representatives with the Sacramento Police Department and El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to The Bee’s requests for comment.
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