California sheriff says he can't enforce coronavirus orders making 'criminals' out of business owners, others exercising rights

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A Southern California sheriff on Tuesday announced he will not be enforcing the state’s stay-at-home order on the grounds that doing so would make “criminals” out of business owners and others who are merely exercising their constitutional rights.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco delivered the remarks during a meeting with the county’s board of supervisors, who were deciding whether or not to remove the county health officer’s order.

Bianco said that the state order forced residents into their homes, closed their businesses, kept them from going to church.

“In the name of a public health crisis, our civil liberties and constitutional protections were placed on hold,” Bianco said.

The sheriff acknowledged the measure's role in flattening the curve and in preventing hospitals from being overcrowded. What city officials have not acknowledged, he says, was that nearly half of the 4,300 people who've tested positive have recovered.

“What that means is that out of 2.5 million people in Riverside County, we have only 2,300 residents positive with this virus,” Bianco said. “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 7/1,000 of 1 percent.”

He acknowledged that any loss of life is tragic but urged the county to be cognizant of its financial health and ability to perform necessary functions.

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“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,” Bianco said. “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.”

The sheriff's office declined Fox News' request for comment on Bianco's remarks.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at the end of Tuesday’s meeting to delay any decision on whether to rescind the county and state’s state-at-home order, the Press-Enterprise reported

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As of Wednesday, there have been 58,732 cases of the novel coronavirus in California with 2,378 deaths. Riverside County, which is east of Los Angeles, has recorded 4,454 cases and 184 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University.