Orange County, Calif., sheriff says deputies won't enforce Gov. Newsom's lockdown order

Once triggered, the stay-at-home order remains in place for at least 3 weeks

The Orange County sheriff in California said Saturday his department would not be enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new restrictive coronavirus lockdown order, which is set to take effect Sunday in the southern part of the state as well as the San Joaquin Valley, south of Sacramento. 

The governor warned last week that the order, which bans indoor dining at restaurants and closes bars and hair salons, would trigger regionally when any section of the state falls below 15% intensive care unit-capacity in hospitals.

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

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Barnes' statement said deputies will not respond solely to enforce mask-wearing, social distancing or social gathering restrictions. "Deputies 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 wrote. 

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He said residents should follow health recommendations to keep from spreading the virus and policymakers shouldn’t “penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms.”

The statement comes soon after San Mateo County near San Francisco said it would not immediately implement the stay-at-home order. 

San Mateo has not fallen below 15% capacity but could by the middle of the month.

The county said on Thursday that instead, it will work with the community and businesses to enforce the state's strictest existing restrictions under its "purple tier" category, diverging from other Bay Area counties that decided to implement the order as a precaution. 

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"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.