The message was clear before, and it’s even clearer now: Violating the governor’s corona order may or may not kill you — most probably not — but it won’t land you in court or jail, at least not in Linn County.
The county’s top law enforcers, District Attorney Doug Marteeny and Sheriff Jim Yon, sent out an email from the sheriffs office Thursday afternoon.
Here it is, all of it:
“Before this year, we would have never imagined having to wear a mask and avoiding close contact when others are around. We have experienced Covid-19 restrictions for quite some time now. There are many businesses in our community holding on by a thread. People are struggling because they feel cut off and alone.
“We understand the realities of Covid-19, but we draw the line when we are dealing with decisions relating to individual residences, religion, or businesses.
“The Linn County Sheriff’s Office decided back in April that we would not do criminal enforcement on Covid-19 measures. Our role in the community is not to count how many people are at a residence or how an individual business conducts its affairs. We definitely do not interfere with religious organizations. We are going to continue to educate citizens, as needed, and that is where we will stop. We trust citizens to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate given their individual circumstances. We are not going to criminally enforce the COVID-19 restrictions contained in the Governor’s order.”
Starting this Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gov. Kate Brown had ordered a series of two-week restrictions on businesses, particularly restaurants and bars, and private gatherings in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Oregon. Then she issued an executive order under her emergency powers, which has the effect of turning violations of the restrictions into misdemeanors punishable by fines or jail time.
The Oregon State Police and the statewide associations of police chiefs and sheriffs responded with a statement that their approach to any reported violations would be education first, and enforcement would be a “last resort.”
The Linn County officials also talk of education where it’s needed, but there is no “last resort” after that. They sound as though they trust citizens to be smart enough to take measures on their own — masks, distancing, staying home when possible, no parties or group sessions, and so forth. It’s up to citizens to prove them right. (hh)