SLO County sheriff and DA do not support criminalizing stay-at-home violators

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

As scores of business owners refuse to abide by the state’s strict coronavirus rules, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and District Attorney Dan Dow said that enforcing coronavirus lockdown orders is not their job.

Triggered by an increase in patients in intensive care units at hospitals in Southern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order that went into effect Sunday evening. For the next three weeks, hair and nail salons, outdoor and indoor dining at restaurants, gyms and wineries are under orders to shut down.

Newsom’s order, which requires people to stay at home as much as possible, has led dozens of residents to turn in neighbors they suspect have violated the order.

However, sheriff deputies are not going to respond to calls for service based solely on complaints of non-compliance, nor will they stop people walking or driving to ask where they are going, Parkinson tweeted Tuesday. The department plans to focus on significant criminal matters while asking the business community for voluntary compliance of coronavirus restrictions.

“The Sheriff’s Office will not jeopardize the safety of this community and criminalize people who are trying to preserve their mental, physical, and financial health,” Parkinson tweeted.

From South County to Paso Robles, multiple restaurants are allowing customers to dine at their outdoor patios. In addition, several fitness centers are continuing to allow their clients to exercise inside, electing to violate the order and stay in business.

District Attorney Dan Dow

In response, San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrich asked Dow to file misdemeanor charges against Kennedy Club Fitness. Dow declined, noting that if the city wants to “ensure compliance by Kennedy Club Fitness or any other business for violating coronavirus restrictions,” they can levy fines against the businesses.

“Families and businesses in our county are struggling to keep their head above water and survive financially,” Dow said. “There is no sense in labeling a business owner or a business as a criminal for choosing to keep their business open in a manner that adequately protects their customers – who, by the way, are not being forced to enter their business.”

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to petition the state to allow San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to separate from the Southern California region to form a Central Coast region, which would likely lead to relaxed rules.

In an attempt to show support for reopening, a group is planning a protest at Mission Plaza in SLO at 5 p.m. on Friday. Organizers, which include health care workers and business owners, are asking supporters to wear masks at the protest.