# # #

Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal today said rural areas like ours can stand to have more flexibility when it comes to enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions. 

For example, we haven’t yet arrived at a point where people should be ticketed for going to the beach, and Honsal is against proposals to suspend recreational sport fishing and hunting into the fall. 

Catch all that and more in the latest media availability video from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Below is a list of today’s questions and brief summaries of Honsal’s answers. 

0:00: Now that the jail’s booking has been limited to only serious or violent felonies, domestic violence and child abuse, how do you recommend people protect themselves from crime?

The advice hasn’t changed, Honsal says. Protect yourself. Protect your home. And don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle. And there’s still accountability for property crimes, he says. People are being arrested, “and they will eventually have their day in court. 

1:22: Have any citations been issued for violating the county’s shelter-in-place order?

Not yet, but deputies have issued lots of warnings, and they’re taking names, Honsal says. “If we have repeat offenses, that’s when we get into the citation aspect of things.” 

2:15: San Francisco is ticketing people who are out and about unnecessarily. Will you?

“We are rural California,” Honsal says. “We are rural. We have a lot of open space.” Orange County, San Diego County and San Francisco may be citing people who go to the beach to watch the sunset, but Honsal’s department is giving people more leeway and autonomy to do the right thing. “Please don’t congregate,” he says. Enforcement can always be ramped up.

3:25: Some people have complained of crowded beaches. 

People may be concerned when they see near-full parking lots, Honsal says. The HCSO will follow up on complaints and issue warnings, if necessary. 

4:32: Is there any talk of making face masks mandatory in public places? And what about people of color who feel wearing a mask could put them in danger?

Right now wearing a mask is just a suggestion, not an order, Honsal says. But eventually it could be a strict order. Regarding masks and racial profiling, Honsal says, “People shouldn’t fear about that here.” He again emphasizes that wearing a mask is a safety recommendation. “You shouldn’t see any pushback from law enforcement because you’re wearing a mask.”

6:00: What responsibility do employers have to provide protective equipment to their employees?

It’s up to the employers, Honsal says, though the county is certainly encouraging everyone to wear masks to prevent spread of the virus. 

7:13: Are residents allowed to access local trails and parks under the shelter-in-place order?

Yes, the order allows people to visit parks, beaches and trails, Honsal says, though people should maintain social distancing and visit areas close to home. Some trails in state and federal parks are closed. 

8:13: Do you support emergency regulations to suspend, delay or restrict recreational fishing due to COVID-19?

The California Fish & Game Commission is considering whether to suspend hunting and sport fishing into the summer and fall. “I am against that,”

[A point of clarification, here: After a wild teleconference meeting today, in which angry participants had been fueled by misinformation, officials with the Fish & Game Commission released a clarifying statement to media, saying, in part, “We are not contemplating statewide closure. The decision is to help prepare us to work with counties and tribes to make those decisions based on their requests. We are working on a tailored and surgical approach based on local needs and knowledge.”]

Honsal says. There’s plenty of wide-open space here in rural Northern California, he says. “We have the ability to really socially distance while we’re performing these activities.” Local hunters and fishers, including the tribes, engage in those activities for food and cultural reasons, not just sport, he adds.