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Sonoma County sheriff walks back decision, will again enforce stay-at-home order

A few days after Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick confirmed he would not enforce the county health officer’s stay-at-home order regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, it appears as if he and other county leaders are trying to get on the same page.

In a joint statement issued Monday, Essick and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors President Susan Gorin announced that the county will begin looking at ways to loosen some restrictions.

The statement says that while the order delaying the latest reopening phase will remain in effect until next Monday, the county will launch the “Sonoma County Economic Recovery Taskforce” in order to determine how best to shift from the more restrictive stay-at-home approach to a “risk-based model.”

According to the statement:

“As Sheriff Essick recently announced, the Sheriff’s Office will — as it has since the inception of the order — continue to use its discretion to emphasize education over punitive action as we create a path forward together in an ever-changing environment.”

Last Thursday, Essick wrote a letter to county residents saying 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.

As of Tuesday, the county had recorded 566 cases and four deaths, adding two new cases over the past 24 hours.

It appears as if the joint statement is intended to assure county residents that the sheriff and other county leaders are now committed to a more cooperative approach to the pandemic.

The statement said:

“We look forward to working together to achieve transparent decision-making processes; data-driven directives; thoughtful enforcement; and collaborative, cross-sector leadership.”

On May 23, the county began to loosen some restrictions by allowing outdoor dining, summer day-camp programs for children and the operation of drive-in movies, among other things.

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