A California sheriff has blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom's "flat-out ridiculous" stay-at-home COVID order as he joins a host of county law enforcement officials pushing back against the latest restrictions.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said that his office will not be "blackmailed, bullied or used as muscle" against residents to enforce Newsom's coronavirus order.
Newsom announced on Thursday that the number of available intensive care beds in four out of five regions would drop to fewer than 15 percent within days.
This metric prompted the mandated closure of all bars, hair salons, barbershops, casinos, and indoor and outdoor playgrounds as well as a stay-at-home order. Only the Bay Area region did not meet the criteria to trigger the new restrictions.
The lockdown came into force on Saturday and will be in place for at least three weeks meaning the measures will cover the Christmas holiday.
In a video statement on Friday, Bianco called the Democratic governor's handling of the crisis "extremely hypocritical" and told residents his department refuses to enforce his order.
Bianco criticized the Democratic governor's "dictatorial attitude" toward Californians after he had dined in luxury, kept his own winery business open, and sent his children back to their in-person private school.
The sheriff said it is "very telling about his attitude toward California residents, his feelings about the virus, and it is extremely hypocritical."
He also called the state's metrics to justify stay-at-home orders as "flat-out ridiculous" and "unbelievably faulty."
"These are not representative of true numbers and are disastrous for Riverside County," he said, adding that it seemed to be "part of the new goal to shift attention away from his and others' personal behavior with a 'do as I say, not as I do' attitude by turning public opinion against California sheriffs."
"Leaders do not threaten, attempt to intimidate, or cause fear. Bullies do," he said.
The sheriff then appealed to Riverside County residents to use their common sense to "act responsibly and do what they can to protect themselves and their family from contracting the virus."
Bianco said: "While the governor's office and the state has threatened action against violators, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department will not be blackmailed, bullied, or used as muscle against Riverside County residents in the enforcement of the Governor's orders."
This is not the first time Bianco has rebelled against Newsom's orders. In May, he openly refused to punish business owners who he said were exercising their constitutional rights and providing for their families.
Last month, several sheriff departments in California said they would also not be enforcing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew previously imposed in dozens of counties by Newsom.
What other county sheriffs have said
Bianco is one of several county sheriff's in California who have spoken out against the Governor's COVID orders.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement that compliance was "a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement."
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office also said it will not deploy law enforcement patrols to ensure residents were abiding by the restrictions.
In a statement, the office said it will continue to focus not on direct enforcement but instead hopes to educate the public about the dangers of defying the orders.
The department said: "As has been the case since we were initially faced with the difficulties of living and working through this pandemic together, our goal is to educate and gain voluntary compliance regarding Public Health orders."
He said that deputies will not be dispatched to calls about enforcing compliance to stay-at-home restrictions, nor face covering and social gathering rules.
Speaking to Fox 11, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his deputies will not go out of their way to punish businesses already hugely affected by the pandemic.
"I want to stay away from businesses that are trying to comply the best they can," Villanueva said.
"They've bent over backwards to modify their entire operation to conform to these current health laws, then they have the rug yanked out from under them. That's a disservice, so I don't want to make their lives any more miserable."
Villanueva added the LASD will instead be focusing on super-spreader events and large groups of people gathering.
"Our approach is one of educating the public of the health orders and encouraging compliance with them," he said in a statement to FOX 11.
"Enforcement has always been an option for our staff to use with considerable discretion. However, our primary goal is to seek voluntary compliance whenever possible."
However, a group of counties in the Bay Area, which have not hit the metrics to trigger Newsom's order, took the opposite approach, saying that these restrictions actually came too late.
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Clara Counties, as well as Berkeley city, made the collective announcement on Friday, saying they would preemptively implement the stay-at-home order.
"It takes several weeks for new restrictions to slow rising hospitalizations and waiting until only 15% of a region's ICU beds are available is just too late," explained San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragon. "[T]he time to act is now."
Newsweek has contacted Newsom for comment.