CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — The Jackson County Sheriff's Office will not be enforcing Governor Kate Brown's stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 response, Sheriff Nathan Sickler shared in a Facebook post on Friday.
"The Sheriff's Office has not and will not dedicate any of our limited resources to enforcing this order," Sickler said. "We respect all of our resident's freedom and rights and thank everyone for their efforts thus far to keep our community safe. We also understand the difficulties our current status is causing for our valley and many people have been put in very difficult situations. My office will not make those situations worse."
Though Jackson County is on track to enter Phase One of reopening on May 15 under the Governor's plan, the pressure has been building from at least some people to open businesses up early in defiance of that order.
Sickler asked that Jackson County residents not call the Sheriff's Office to report any businesses that have opened or group gatherings, saying that the agency has "much more significant issues" to deal with every day.
"If you are vulnerable or concerned, please protect yourself and act accordingly. I also ask that everyone be respectful of one another," Sickler said.
The Sheriff encouraged businesses or people set on holding a gathering to check with the responsible agencies, namely OSHA, and "understand the current regulations and potential civil penalties" of defying the Governor's orders.
"I would also suggest you check with the law enforcement entity that has jurisdiction where your home or business is, to include municipal police departments, the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Attorney General’s Office," Sickler said. "These other administrative and law enforcement agencies and departments operate independently from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office."
The Governor's Office recently reiterated that violations of the stay-at-home order are considered a Class C misdemeanor, for which the penalty is up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250, or both — and that can apply to business owners and their patrons. Still, Brown's office admitted that criminal penalties are a last resort.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Office isn't the only agency that has signaled they will not enforce any violations of the order. The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety confirmed as much to NewsWatch 12 earlier this week as several Grants Pass businesses moved to open early.
Governor Brown's office called these violations "irresponsible and unfortunate."
"The Governor’s Office is aware that some businesses are choosing to reopen prematurely, before appropriate safeguards are in place for their communities," Brown's office said. "This behavior is irresponsible and unfortunate. These business owners are putting the public at risk. "A public health crisis should never be used as a marketing opportunity. As a state, and as a community, we have a shared responsibility to protect our friends, neighbors, and loved ones from COVID-19."