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Siskiyou Sheriff keeps the door open on California mask enforcement

While some local law enforcement officials in California have voiced their defiance against Governor Newsom's mask requirements, Sheriff Jon Lopey says that he wants to keep enforcement as a possibility.

Posted: Jun 25, 2020 3:49 PM
Updated: Jun 25, 2020 3:51 PM

YREKA, Calif. — Following California Governor Gavin Newsom's announcement last week that face coverings would be required in public statewide in order to reduce the rising spread of coronavirus, some local law enforcement officials quickly signaled that they would not be enforcing the order.

Modoc County Sheriff Tex Dowdy put out a statement on Facebook last Friday, saying that it "would not be appropriate" for deputies to criminally enforce the order.

"My office will not be enforcing face coverings in Modoc County. We pride ourselves in knowing our communities and our residents," Dowdy said. "It is my opinion that the potential for negative outcomes of enforcing such a minor offense far outweigh the risks of spreading this virus."

This week, in an apparent response to statements like Dowdy's, Gov. Newsom threatened to withhold up to $2.5 billion in aid for local governments that fail to follow the statewide mandates for masks, social distancing, and contact tracing.

On Wednesday, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey issued his own statement. In a departure from his colleague Dowdy, Lopey indicated that he would not rule out enforcing face coverings within his jurisdiction.

"I prefer to leave enforcement as a possibility because we do not know at this juncture what is going to happen with COVID-19 transmissions, and, I believe there could be instances where egregious and/or repetitive violations of the health officer or gubernatorial mandates or guidelines are evident and warrant enforcement," Lopey said. "This may involve a business, organizer of a large event, or may involve individual citizens."

While Modoc County has yet to identify a positive case of COVID-19, Siskiyou County has seen a gradual climb in new cases since reopening began. Shasta County, which neighbors Siskiyou to the south, has reported more than 90 cases and five deaths.

"I respect the decisions made by other law enforcement officials but as a long-serving peace officer, I think it is wise to not only maintain enforcement as a viable tool in the proverbial tool box, I also do not want to send the wrong message that the county is not enforcing guidelines," Lopey continued, "which will tend, in my opinion, to give county residents and the many visitors to our county the justification to violate these important guidelines or mandates with little prospect of consequences."

Lopey said that his agency has not had to take any criminal enforcement measures for the mask requirement to date — though it has issued warnings, provided education, or worked with city police chiefs in order to gain voluntary compliance.

"While I think some government officials sometimes exceed their lawful and constitutional authority in enacting restrictions, this county, in coordination with our leaders, have recommended prudent guidelines and mandates, in cooperation with our health officer and state officials, that have been more beneficial for our county and its citizens," Lopey said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 66333

Reported Deaths: 826
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15240213
Washington903896
Marion8436130
Clackamas547276
Umatilla415648
Lane389037
Jackson343623
Malheur231839
Deschutes195514
Yamhill158216
Linn127518
Polk107615
Douglas82215
Jefferson77311
Benton7197
Union7172
Klamath6854
Morrow6257
Lincoln56513
Wasco47918
Josephine4434
Columbia4383
Coos3901
Hood River3661
Clatsop3350
Baker2593
Crook1986
Grant1231
Tillamook1120
Curry1052
Lake1010
Harney871
Wallowa702
Sherman230
Gilliam210
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1128219

Reported Deaths: 18753
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles3706367446
San Bernardino851761129
Riverside815651413
San Diego72815968
Orange711161554
Kern38519445
Fresno36315471
Sacramento33421546
Santa Clara31103464
Alameda27622499
San Joaquin24649503
Contra Costa22482258
Stanislaus20658418
Tulare19818303
Ventura18105174
Imperial15257355
San Francisco14542158
Monterey13887114
San Mateo13334169
Sonoma11486155
Merced10986176
Santa Barbara10946133
Kings1011586
Solano936380
Marin7560128
Placer607167
Madera588580
San Luis Obispo566435
Yolo425775
Shasta410042
Santa Cruz389627
Butte371259
Napa277817
Sutter267713
El Dorado19304
San Benito174615
Yuba173210
Lassen14803
Tehama145723
Mendocino142422
Nevada10529
Lake83418
Glenn8326
Humboldt7849
Tuolumne7848
Colusa6426
Mono4993
Siskiyou4951
Amador45016
Calaveras43421
Inyo27916
Del Norte2731
Plumas1770
Modoc1140
Trinity1140
Mariposa1122
Alpine420
Sierra170
Unassigned00
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