UPDATED: Sheriff’s Stance On Health Order Enforcement Now Unclear

Sheriff's Facebook update contradicts Press Democrat report

According to the Press Democrat, during a Friday-morning meeting with other local elected officials, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick reversed course on his Thursday-afternoon announcement that, starting June 1, his agency would no longer enforce the county Health Orders. Now, it looks like Essick has changed his mind again—or that the PD got its story wrong.

Here’s a summary of the past 24 hours: In a Thursday-afternoon social-media post, Essick announced that his agency would only enforce the state’s Health Order, not the County Health Officer’s orders. In the post, Essick cited what he called “inconsistent restrictions on business and personal activities” in the county Health Orders.

Members of the Board of Supervisors and other local law enforcement agencies said they were caught off guard by the Sheriff’s decision.

In a joint statement released Thursday evening, the Board of Supervisors said that “the Sheriff’s message has had the unfortunate effect of creating confusion in our community.”

Within hours of Essick’s announcement, other local law enforcement officials, including Santa Rosa Police Chief Ray Navarro, released statements saying they would continue to enforce the county health orders in their respective jurisdictions.

Then, on Friday, after a morning meeting between local, state and federal politicians along with county health officials, the Press Democrat reported that Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin had said that the Sheriff had agreed to continue enforcing the County Health Orders.

Now, even that Press Democrat report is uncertain. An undated update to the Sheriff’s original statement on Facebook reads “UPDATE: Contrary to other reports the Sheriff is not reversing his position.”

The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon.

5:20 PM UPDATE: At 4:15pm, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office released a new statement about the Sheriff’s meeting with elected leaders this morning. The statement does not clarify whether or not the Sheriff’s Office will enforce the County Health Order.

“Sheriff Essick understands that during these challenging times a flexible response is necessary to adapt to the rapidly evolving situation presented by COVID-19. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to educate the community, while evaluating newly available data from our public health partners and collaborating with Public Health to determine enforcement priorities and protocols,” the statement reads in part.

Mike DeWald, a reporter and producer for KSRO and KCBS, Tweeted soon after the Sheriff’s new statement was released that the Sonoma Sheriff “clarifies that deputies will handle enforcement on a ‘case by case basis’ and determine enforcement priorities as new data becomes available,” according to a conversation he had with a Sheriff’s spokesperson.

Reached by phone, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office was not immediately able to clarify whether or not the agency will continue to enforce the county orders in addition to state orders.

SUNDAY UPDATE: The Sheriff’s Office has added an update to its Friday, May 29 Facebook announcement “UPDATE 6pm: To clarify, the Sheriff’s position stands and we will not be enforcing the County Health Order starting June 1.”