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Orange County authorities won’t enforce mask requirement: ‘We are not the mask police’

Jim Rafferty, owner of Kelly's Korner — one of Orange County's best-known sports bars — chats with a regular on May 16 in Placentia.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County’s sheriff said Tuesday that his department has no intention of enforcing a recent health order requiring residents and visitors to wear face coverings in public.

“We are not the mask police — nor do I intend to be the mask police,” Sheriff Don Barnes told the county Board of Supervisors. “I think what we have seen repeatedly throughout the community is Orange County residents acting responsibly.”

Barnes said the department’s focus has been education, noting that “Orange County residents are adults.”

“They can take the protective measures as they see fit,” he said. “We have not dealt with these issues through enforcement, and I will direct my staff not to direct any enforcement toward the … mask requirement.”

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The sheriff’s declaration came in response to a question from board Chairwoman Michelle Steel, who asked how the department planned to enforce a health order issued Friday. The requirement mandates that Orange County residents wear cloth face coverings while in a public place, at work or visiting a business where they are unable to stay at least six feet apart.

The mask ordinance is similar to one implemented in Los Angeles County more than a month ago, where authorities also have said they hoping the public will comply voluntarily.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva and LAPD Chief Michel Moore said they had no plans to cite anyone for not wearing a mask, but authorities would offer a few words of encouragement — from behind their own face coverings

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Orange County health officials had previously said wearing facial coverings is an important tool in the fight against COVID-19, but they had stopped short of mandating such efforts.

The new mask requirement came just before Orange County received state approval to more broadly lift coronavirus-related business restrictions and resume in-restaurant dining and in-store shopping.

Orange County on Tuesday reported 110 new COVID-19 infections, bringing its cumulative total to 5,578.

That figure includes an estimated 1,995 people who have recovered from the disease — the first time the Orange County Health Care Agency has enumerated that data point.

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However, officials said the number is “only an estimate and should be interpreted with caution.”

“While every case of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is reported to HCA, there is no practical way to find out if they’ve recovered,” officials wrote on the county’s data dashboard.

“Moreover, many people may have experienced some symptoms of COVID-19, but were not tested, making it impossible to know the exact number of COVID-19 infections and recoveries.”

The county arrived at the estimated figure “by taking the difference between the prior 28-day cumulative case count and current day mortality to determine the current day recovered total,” officials said.

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As of the latest update, 269 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized countywide — 106 of them in intensive care. Both those are single-day highs for the county.

The county’s death toll remained unchanged at 131.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, including cases, deaths, closures and restrictions.

Here are the latest details for Orange County:

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Age breakdown of cases
0-17 — 210
18-24 — 535
25-34 — 1,017
35-44 — 838
45-54 — 999
55-64 — 848
65-74 — 515
75-84 — 358
85+ — 257
Unknown — 1

Age breakdown of deaths
25-34 — 2
35-44 — 4
45-54 — 11
55-64 — 16
65-74 — 24
75-84 — 38
85+ — 36

In our effort to cover this pandemic as thoroughly as possible, we’d like to hear from the loved ones of people who have died from the coronavirus.

Cases by community
Aliso Viejo — 28
Anaheim — 904
Brea — 40
Buena Park — 160
Costa Mesa — 104
Coto de Caza — 6
Cypress — 69
Dana Point — 29
Fountain Valley — 53
Fullerton — 184
Garden Grove — 286
Huntington Beach — 329
Irvine — 180
La Habra — 97
La Palma — 18
Ladera Ranch — 13
Laguna Beach — 45
Laguna Hills — 28
Laguna Niguel — 37
Laguna Woods — 9
Lake Forest — 44
Los Alamitos — 75
Midway City — 13
Mission Viejo — 69
Newport Beach — 139
Orange — 258
Placentia — 110
Rancho Mission Viejo — 7
Rancho Santa Margarita — 21
San Clemente — 62
San Juan Capistrano — 53
Santa Ana — 1,032
Seal Beach — 18
Stanton — 68
Trabuco Canyon — 13
Tustin — 89
Villa Park — 6
Westminster — 108
Yorba Linda — 76
Other — 370
Unknown — 328

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Note: “Other” category includes unincorporated areas, as well as cases in the county’s jails. Daily updates are preliminary and subject to change as the county receives new information.


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