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Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco this week vowed not to enforce the state’s new coronavirus restrictions, calling Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to contain the pandemic with business closures and stay-at-home orders “flat out ridiculous.”

“The metrics used for closures are unbelievably faulty and are not representative of true numbers and are disastrous for Riverside County,” the sheriff said in a video released Friday.

The Sheriff’s Department posted the video as state officials sounded the alarm on the dwindling number of available ICU beds across the state, announcing that regions with intensive care capacity that drop below 15% Saturday would have to impose another stay-at-home order at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Southern California’s capacity was at 12.5% Saturday. By the next afternoon, it was at 10.3%, according to the California Department of Public Health.

State data shows that Riverside County had 55 ICU beds available on Friday. That’s higher than in October, when the region’s available ICU beds dropped all the way to 15. But the number of patients confirmed to have the coronavirus is at the highest it’s been since the pandemic began, according to county records.

A graph from Riverside County shows COVID-19 hospitalization and ICU rates in the region from March to December 2020.
A graph from Riverside County shows COVID-19 hospitalization and ICU rates in the region from March to December 2020.

In his video, Bianco accused Newsom of trying to shift attention away from his and other officials’ “do as I say, not as I do attitude,” referring to a dinner attended by the governor and about a dozen others last month.

“The dictatorial attitude toward California residents, while dining and luxury traveling, keeping his business open and sending his kids to in-person private schools is very telling about his attitude toward California residents, his feelings about the virus, and it is extremely hypocritical,” Bianco said.

He added that the Sheriff’s Department is counting on residents to do what they can.

“As has been our position from the beginning of this pandemic, the Sheriff’s Department is asking and expecting Riverside County residents to act responsibly and do what they can to protect themselves and their family from contracting the virus,” Bianco said.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes made a similar statement Saturday, asserting that following health orders is “a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement.” He said that deputies will not be dispatched to calls about enforcing compliance to stay-at-home restrictions, nor face covering and social gathering rules.

Meanwhile, the sheriffs in San Bernardino and Ventura counties said that they’re relying on voluntary compliance.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva also said that his agency will highlight education, and that moving forward “will additionally be conducting targeted enforcement on super-spreader events.” He did not provide further details about what type of events deputies will target.