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Sonoma sheriff abandons enforcement of Covid-19 public health orders

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick confirmed Friday evening that he will not enforce county health orders related to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic starting on Monday.

Essick had written Thursday in a letter to county residents that he could “no longer in good conscience” enforce the public health orders that he said “criminalize otherwise lawful business and personal behavior.”

The sheriff said in the letter that he had asked the county’s public health officials “to explain why, with such a low infection rate, we have not moved to a less restrictive, risk based system,” saying that the county’s order is far more restrictive than the one statewide despite a low Covid-19 infection rate.

Jesse Garnier/SFBay

As of Friday, Sonoma County had reported 531 confirmed cases of Covid-19, along with four deaths and 207 recoveries.

Open SFBay Bay Area coronavirus dashboard in new window.

According to the sheriff’s office, Essick met earlier Friday with other county officials, including Board of Supervisors chair Susan Gorin, Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and public health officials about the county’s orders related to the pandemic, but the meeting apparently didn’t convince the sheriff to change his mind.

Other elected officials in the county criticized the sheriff’s decision, including Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett, who called Essick’s decision “reckless and clearly not well thought out.”

Barrett said, “That our county sheriff would issue his statement throwing up his hands and refusing to do the job he was elected to do has deep consequences. Whether unwittingly or knowingly stoking divisiveness he is contributing to divisions that are harming our community and nation.” She added, “He needs to go.”

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