Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva pushes back new demand for wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of the vaccination status which must take effect on Saturday evening. The country’s most populous county institutes new mask mandate in the middle an increase in cases but Villanueva says the move contradicts guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Forcing the vaccinated and those who have already contracted Covid-19 to wear masks indoors is not supported by science,” Villanueva wrote in a declaration posted on his department’s website. While Villanueva acknowledges that the county public health department “has the power” to issue the order, “the underfunded / funded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not spend our limited resources and will instead request voluntary compliance “.
The warrant comes after weeks of public health officials urging people to wear masks indoors – the highly contagious Delta variant is skyrocketing COVID-19 cases across the state. But it’s unclear whether people will be ready to put back masks, especially with Villanueva making it clear that there will be little if any enforcement. LA County Department of Public Health could issue citations to companies that do not comply, but spokeswoman said ‘education and information sharing’ would be the main strategy. “Our community will not be able to impose our exit from this pandemic,” said spokeswoman Natalie Jimenez.
Los Angeles County has recorded an average of more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day over the past week. And on Friday there was another big jump with more than 1,900 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations are also on the increase although the vast majority of patients are not vaccinated. With the new mandate, “vaccinated people are invited to make a sacrifice to help slow the spread of the coronavirus among the unvaccinated”, notes the Los Angeles Times. About 52% of LA County residents are fully vaccinated and about 60% to have obtained at least one blow. LA County isn’t alone in urging people to wear masks indoors, either.
Villanueva’s combative statement against the new term comes at a time when the sheriff who was elected winning over liberal and progressive voters has taken a marked turn to the right. The Los Angeles Times detailed this change in a recent profile:
Villanueva has appeared on Fox News to dismiss the notion of widespread police brutality, and on regular social media broadcasts, he has adopted Trump-like behavior, calling his critics trolls and disconnected elites. Its press conferences have featured conservative politicians and personalities. He rejoices in publicly berating elected local Democrats, including the mayor of Los Angeles, for what he sees as their inept management of the homeless crisis in the city, and he joined the campaign eagerly to kick out the ultra-progressive county district attorney.
And, in a move that is more the responsibility of the NRA than the ACLU, Villanueva is on a mission to dramatically increase the number of people in Los Angeles County who are allowed to carry concealed weapons.
All of this has left the county Democratic Party machine, which helped put Villanueva to power, awash with feelings of betrayal and buyer’s remorse that culminated last month with a demand for the sheriff’s resignation. And, as a re-election bid looms, Villanueva’s tip to the right leaves people wondering if the maneuvers are part of a deliberate plan to win a new voter base or simply the unruly dispersal of a man without vision.