Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among deputies and inmates as his department increased precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus, including reducing the population within the vulnerable jail system.
In a news conference on Monday, Villanueva said the county has also cut the number of arrests over the past week from about 300 to 60 per day as deputies increasingly cite and release minor offenders.
Since the agency began taking measures against the coronavirus outbreak in February, the number of inmates in L.A. County jails has decreased by about 3.6% through early release, including that of individuals with less than 30 days left in their sentence, according to the sheriff.
While there’s a small number of deputies and inmates who have been quarantined as a precaution, none has tested positive for COVID-19, the sheriff emphasized.
Villanueva, who heads one of the largest law enforcement jurisdictions in the U.S., addressed the public as the coronavirus pandemic prompted the closures of local government buildings, classrooms and many businesses.
He said people can expect to see deputies at wholesale and grocery stores, where customers have descended in recent weeks as fear over the outbreak spread.
Asked about locals lining up to purchase weapons at gun stores, he said: “Buying guns is a bad idea. … You have a lot of people now that they’re at home [when] normally, they’re not. Cabin fever sets in… weapons are not a good mix.”
He reminded gun owners to secure their weapons at all times.
Villanueva also encouraged the public to become familiar with their local law enforcement station’s contact information and refrain from using 911 for non-emergency calls.
“This is about being prepared, not scared,” Villanueva said.
On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom urged anyone over age 65 and other people with chronic health conditions to stay home. He also called for bars and other entertainment venues to close.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti made a similar proclamation later Sunday. While grocery stores, pharmacies and food banks will stay open, restaurants won’t be able to accept dine-in customers.
L.A. County officials followed suit on Monday.
Garcetti reassured the public that there was no food and supply shortage, and that shelves that have been emptied will be restocked.
California officials have confirmed 335 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths as of Monday.