California governor promises mask order will be enforced. Police officers have just one question – by whom?

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This editorial is brought to you by a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

Sacramento, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom is not slowing down in his attempt to control every last aspect of life in California, even if he has to circumvent the Constitution to do it. 

We told you yesterday about his violation of the 1st Amendment when he deemed that churches can still meet in the state amid the “increase” in COVID-19 cases, but attendees are forbidden from singing. 

Then he ordered bars, wineries and tasting rooms in 19 counties across the state to close. The order did not apply to the Napa Valley region where he has a winery and tasting room. Of the 19, 6 are located in the same part of the state as Napa. 

Now the governor has announced the launch of an ad campaign that urges people to wear masks in public. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise, as 17 of his 23 tweets and retweets in July are about mask wearing. 

“REMINDER: CA, you are now REQUIRED to wear a mask in public spaces. We’re seeing too many people with faces uncovered”, he tweeted. “Wearing a face covering is critical for keeping people safe and healthy, keeping businesses open and getting people back to work. Do your part. Wear your mask.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, Newsom unveiled the campaign, along with two sample ads, during a press conference on Thursday.

“The campaign will ‘focus on messages that we think can hit home in traditional ways, more emotional ways and again in messages that people can understand in Arabic, in Cantonese, in Mandarin, in Vietnamese and other languages, and clearly Spanish,’ he said.

‘We need to have a deeper conversation about how to safely reopen. That’s what this public education campaign is all about.’

One ad he previewed depicts a hospitalized patient with COVID-19 breathing with the assistance of a ventilator as the screen says ‘Even without symptoms you can spread COVID-19, and people can die.’ A Spanish-language video says, ‘A little piece of cloth shows that you care about others. Please wear a mask.’

It’s one of several efforts Newsom said he has launched to enforce a statewide mask order that some Californians are disregarding – or actively opposing – as the coronavirus spreads significantly throughout the state.

Broadcast and radio public service announcements will be distributed in English and Spanish to local media affiliates, including Univision, Telemundo and Ethnic Media Services.

Newsom said that the state has received $10.75 million in charitable giving, along with $27 million in in-kind contributions, to launch the campaign. Billboards were going up Thursday afternoon.”

The California Department of Public Health says that have had roughly 5,000 in the past few days. The said that “hospitalizations are up 56 percent over the last two weeks, while COVID-19-related intensive care unit visits are up 49 percent.”

Newsom said 73 people died in the last 24 hours. 

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There is increased scrutiny over the reporting of numbers as people across the country are showing evidence that the numbers may be inflated though tactics such as positive testing by association, and a person testing positive a second time will be recorded as a new case. 

The Bee continued:

“At the press conference to promote the pro-mask ad campaign, Newsom was asked several times why the state hasn’t taken action to sanction people who choose to flout the mask order, such as by issuing a citation.

Newsom said local jurisdictions have a role and responsibility to play in enforcement, but said the state budget put in place a way for him to hold them accountable for their performance. He now has the ability to withhold a total of $2.5 billion in financial aid to local jurisdictions that don’t follow state guidelines to limit the spread of the disease.

The Democratic governor said the state also has deployed multi-agency strike teams, including agencies such as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the California Highway Patrol, to six strategic parts of the state to crack down.”

So, either local law enforcement agencies start forcing compliance, or the governor will withhold aid packages.  

“We have I think a responsibility to go after people who are thumbing their noses, being aggressive, being reticent,” Newsom said.

But, what do law enforcement agencies think about their role in enforcing Newsom’s order, as many have refused to assume an enforcement role regarding what some see as an unConstitutional power grab?

The Los Angeles Times reported: 

“’When it comes to something like this where it’s public-health related, that is new territory for law enforcement,’ said Ed Obayashi, a Plumas County deputy and statewide law enforcement legal consultant.

The novel coronavirus, he said, is ‘like any other situation where we have discretion. We have discretion on minor violations of the law.’

Some local law enforcement officials, even in places hit hard by the virus, said they are doing fine without state help, and question whether intervention is needed.

‘It’s always better to have the local entities approach the local businesses or people here,’ said Imperial County Sheriff Raymond Loera.

Imperial County, in the southeast corner of the state, has seen an extreme outbreak in recent days and has had to transfer more than 500 patients to hospitals in other counties because of overload. But Loera said that while he is uncertain why the virus has hit his region so hard, it is not because of local businesses’ lack of compliance or local law enforcement’s reluctance to enforce rules.

But, not all agencies are taking the same approach, as they refuse to enforce the orders. Sheriffs in counties including Sacramento, Riverside and Los Angeles continue to say that they have no intentions to start enforcing the restrictions.

“It is time to reflect on decisions we have made under the pretext of this pandemic: Such as why we were forced to let over 1,100 inmates out of Sacramento’s COVID-free jail into a community where the law-abiding are still locked down?” wrote Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones on Facebook on May 6.

 “It is time to recognize that ‘We the People’ have willingly acquiesced to loss of freedoms, loss of income, and loss of social connection for the greater good, but now we are ready to responsibly get back to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Brian Ferguson, the spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services, said:

“This is really aimed at folks who are openly defiant,” said he said.

Ferguson said that businesses were the target of the effort, but didn’t rule out enforcement of the state’s mandate for mask-wearing in public spaces — which has yet to be legally enforced on a large scale. He added that outreach to local agencies, “is happening right now.”

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