Today Sheriff Billy Honsal took questions from members of the media on how COVID-19 has affected the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office staffing and recruitment process, how law enforcement has been enforcing masking and what happens if businesses are not complying with public health orders.

Below is brief, rough summary of the questions and Honsal’s answers. You can view Honsal’s full answers in the above video.


How has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issues associated with the HCSO’s  critical staffing shortage? (0:14)

Since starting the COVID response HCSO has had to modify its schedule, with deputies moving to 12 hour emergency shifts. HCSO is trying to allow for vacations and time off, but some deputies are working beyond their normal schedules to ensure that there is 24 hour coverage throughout the county .

Can you share some of the most difficult situations members of local law enforcement have had to deal with specifically related to COVID? (1:10)

One of the most difficult situations law enforcement has to deal with, in general, is domestic violence disturbances. It is difficult to mediate these situations and make decisions about how to handle them. But deputies are doing their best to respond to these calls and keep the community safe everyday.

Did the COVID crisis affect the way you’re recruiting now? And, if so, how? (2:50)

It’s difficult for recruitment to happen. But the recruitment team is trying to promote information online. Overall, the response has been pretty successful and there have a good number of applicants. We don’t know what this next budget year is going to be, but hopefully there will not be cuts to public safety.

How often are Sheriff’s Office personnel tested for COVID-19 and have any tested positive? (4:45)

Not one Sheriff’s Office employee has tested positive. None of the deputies are required to get tested. If they are symptomatic or have come into contact with a known case, they will get tested and stay home.

How many complaints has the Sheriff’s Office received regarding compliance with the masking rules?(6:00)

The county’s compliance tip hotline has received over 100 calls and about 50 of them were about masking. HSCO followed up on those calls, but has been focusing on education rather than enforcement.

On Mother’s Day there were reportedly huge crowds gathered at the Cottonwood Rodeo. What is your response to those arguing social distancing should not be mandatory?(7:45)

Because of holding the Cottonwood Rodeo, Shasta County is now not permitted by the state to move into phase two of reopening. When people choose not to follow social distancing guidelines it ultimately slows the process. If people are patient now,  Humboldt County will eventually be able to get back to normal and hold  community events again.

Do you think it should be up to businesses to decide if they want to open and leave the choice of whether or not to go out to individuals and can that choice put essential workers at higher risk? (9:41)

There is a framework in place for opening businesses. Businesses should not open if they’re not permitted to. The county will be launching an online system this week for businesses to apply for an approval certificate for reopening.

What are the repercussions for businesses that are allowing customers to enter their stores prematurely? (11:42)

Because it is against the public health officer’s orders, they could be fined. For some businesses the state could take away their business licence or certification. It is very important for businesses to comply with the state and local orders.

Have any warnings or citations been issued to businesses trying to reopen that aren’t compliant? (13:14)

Some warnings have been issued, but no citations have been issued to the best of Honsal’s knowledge.

You mentioned that the jail would start allowing visitations again. What steps are being taken to protect correctional officers, inmates and visitors coming into correctional facilities? (13:29)

Starting next week the jail will be opening up visiting hours with restrictions. Visitor numbers will be limited, hours will be limited and facial coverings will be required. Cleaning crews will also ensure that all frequently touched surfaces are regularly cleaned.

Anything else you want to talk about? (14:43)

The county is working on submitting an attestation for state approval to begin the next phase of reopening. The issue will be going before the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.

Be sure to check the website for the certification application for reopening businesses. There is already information available on requirements for opening businesses.