Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he won’t enforce the county’s renewed mask mandate, which went into effect at one minute before midnight Saturday.
Sheriff Villanueva said the Los Angeles County Health Officer order requiring residents to wear masks indoors regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status ran counter to the science and his “underfunded/defunded” department lacks the resources to police such a mandate.
“Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines,” the sheriff said Friday in a statement.
He also referred to the county Board of Supervisors’ decision last year to cut $145 million from the sheriff’s department budget.
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance,” he said. “We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”
The department cited “alarming trends of increased community spread” of COVID-19, saying that as of July 9, the seven-day average case rate had risen from 7.1 to 8.2 cases per 100,000, and that the positivity rate had jumped to 3.8% from 0.4% in early June.
The county reported 1,902 new confirmed cases as of Friday and six deaths, with hospitalizations doubling from 216 to 452 in the last month.
“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and the increase in hospitalizations signals immediate action must be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county health officer. “Otherwise, we may quickly see more devastating illness and death among the millions of residents.”
Only about 0.09% of the cases since vaccinations began in December involved fully vaccinated people, but “it is not an insignificant number in light of Los Angeles County’s current substantial and increasing community transmission,” said the department.
Los Angeles radio host Larry Elder, one of the Republican candidates running to supplant California Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election, tweeted he supports the sheriff “100%!!!”