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Coronavirus Watch: Josephine County Sheriff won't enforce state COVID-19 mandates

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel put out a statement on Thursday, clarifying that his agency will not be enforcing any of Governor Kate Brown's COVID-19 mandates, though they will respond to "incidents that may arise from such mandates."

Sheriff Daniel's statement comes hot on the heels of a message from Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, one which pledged not to enforce state mandates while also vocally criticizing the Governor's "style of leadership."

The position that local law enforcement in Oregon will not enforce the Governor's COVID-19 executive orders has been relatively standard since the beginning of the pandemic, and enforcement has largely fallen to state regulatory agencies like Oregon OSHA. In that sense, nothing substantive has changed.

Sheriff Daniel said that his agency has received "numerous requests" to get his stance on these issues, so he felt compelled to issue a statement:

"When elected into the Office of Sheriff by the citizens of Josephine County, I took an oath to support the Constitutions of the State of Oregon and the United States of America. I stand firm on my oath and consider it my responsibility to protect Josephine County citizens from what I consider 'over reach.' I am a conservator of the peace and it is my responsibility to protect our citizens' Rights, Freedoms and Liberties.

"While recently there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases, I believe these mandates should be a local and personal choice. I have found our Public Health Department and County Physician to be on top of what is best for our citizens by advising best practices for us all. Local control and personal choice are two issues I firmly believe in. As a result, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office will NOT be enforcing any mandatory mask or vaccination mandates. We will however, remain Conservators of the Peace and respond accordingly to incidents that may arise from such mandates but will not address the mandates specifically.

"It is not my intent to stand on a 'soap box' and disrespect our state officials. I believe they are doing what they think is right, just as I am in this brief letter. It is however, my intent to stand on the firm soil of Josephine County and represent our citizens. In closing, I leave it up to you. Conduct research, seek advise from physicians, make an education decision on what is best for you and your families, be courteous to others and respect their personal decisions just as you request their respect for your own. We are a strong county and together we will prevail and get through these trying times."

Like neighboring Jackson County, Josephine has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that are overwhelming the ability of local hospital systems to serve the sheer number of patients at the level of care they require. At Asante Three Rivers in Grants Pass, COVID-19 patients fill the Critical Care Unit, and hospital administrators are pursuing multiple contingency plans to expand capacity and staffing where they can.

Hospital and public health officials in both Jackson and Josephine counties say that upwards of 90 percent of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.