Although the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has been given the authority to ticket or arrest potential violators of the county’s latest health order to help slow the spread of coronavirus, Sheriff Chad Bianco said it was the last thing he wanted to do.
In the new public health order, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, called for residents to stay home but, if they had an essential errand or appointment, to wear a face mask when going out. He also stated that residents shouldn’t have gatherings — of any number — outside of the people who lived in their home. Law enforcement agencies have the authority to enforce these orders, which run through April 30, “as they deem necessary,” according to county officials.
As of Monday evening, there were 946 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 60 recoveries, records show. There were 25 deaths, including two deputies who died Thursday.
“I am pleading to you, my fellow Riverside County residents, for your cooperation and voluntary compliance with the orders given by our governor and county health officer,” Bianco said in a video message Monday. “If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me. Do it for my family. Do it for your family.”
Bianco said that the department wouldn’t be setting up “any type of police state” in Riverside County. Deputies also won’t be stopping vehicles, or setting up checkpoints for motorists, and they won’t be stopping residents while they are out on a walk with their families. Deputies also won’t stop or ticket residents simply for not wearing a mask, he said.
Bianco also asked residents not to call 911 to report potential violators. Doing so, he said, impacts their ability to respond to “emergencies and critical calls.”
The county’s public information officer, Brooke Federico, said residents should themselves speak politely to those violating the order and, only if absolutely necessary, call (951) 351-6866.
“We don’t want people to shame their neighbors,” she said, “but everyone can politely share the message with the people they know about the need to wear masks and stay inside.
“We can’t lose sight of our civility with each other. Neighbors help their neighbors all the time, and that is a big part of the community in Riverside County. We’re in this together, and we need everybody’s help.”
The ban on gatherings also applies to places of worship, according to the county. With Palm Sunday and Easter quickly approaching, officials said all churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship were prohibited from in-person gatherings. That includes drive-in religious services.
Officials are encouraging people who want to celebrate and observe the holiday to do so by watching the livestreams that many religious organizations are hosting online.
“As painful as it is for us, let us follow this directive,” Bishop Gerald Barnes, from the Diocese of San Bernardino, said in a video on the county’s website. “Let us see it as an act of love and sacrifice for all our brothers and sisters and a sign of our reverence for human life.”