Below: A rough transcription of the above video, in which Sheriff William Honsal takes questions from the Humboldt County media on the COVID-19 crisis, and particularly the phase we find ourselves in today — the partial reopening of certain sectors of the economy.


(0:00) What have you seen or heard during the first day of reopening? Hitches, problems, success stories?

Businesses are opening up. Some people have opened up and let people inside their businesses, and so we’ve had to reach out to say “we’re not at that stage yet.” They’ve since come into compliance.

“We are anxious too, believe me. But we want to go about this the right way, and provide the right guidance for all our businesses to adhere to.

(1:20) A reporter noticed this today – people coming inside stores. How is it being enforced, how are you providing education?

All local law enforcement agencies are focused on education right now. Complaints have come into the complaint line, and they’ve been forwarded on to the correct jurisdiction. Law enforcement has been out doing foot patrols just to check on things.

But the county hopes to have things open as normal as early as the middle of next week, and the county health officer has been writing to the state to help push things along.

“This is a soft opening, but we plan on opening our retail stores very, very very soon. In the next week, we are very optimistic.”

(2:50) Why are people able to go into big box stores if they can’t go into smaller local stores?

It’s frustrating. I get it. But these are the state guidelines as pushed out by the state. But we’re pushing to get everyone open.

(4:20) The jail is going to start visitations again in the coming weeks. What will that look like?

It will be very controlled. You’ll have to book your visit in advance. People will have to wear facial coverings, and the area where the visit happens will be sanitized.

(5:00) Is there a date when visitations will begin?

Not yet.

(5:30) Does the county have buy-in from the local police chiefs regarding enforcement of the health officer’s orders?

I meet with the police chiefs twice a week via Zoom. We feel like we are partners in this. They realize that they are the enforcement arm of Public Health.

They’ve had good questions, and we’ve been very open with our dialog.

(6:30) Has anyone yet been cited for not wearing a facial covering, or for violating the shelter-in-place order?

Some people have been cited for violating the shelter-in-place order, but he’s unaware of anyone being cited for not wearing a facial covering.

(6:40) Can you “speak to your feelings when you question the directives of someone like Gov. Newsom”?

In this job, you swear to uphold the law – a lawful order. If you believe an order is not lawful, you are not bound to that order. It’s as if a sergeant were to order an officer to do something unlawful. The officer can’t be disciplined for not doing it.

I believe I was following the same principle.

(8:20) How often do you consult the Constitution to determine whether or not a law is Constitutional? Can you give an example of another law that you deemed to be unconstitutional, and have declined to enforce?

As law enforcement officers, we weigh the lawfulness and constitutionality of our actions all the time. “That’s why, instead of kicking down doors sometimes, we write a search warrant.”

(9:30) Is the courthouse building opening up on May 18?

It’s a possibility. There’s no specific date yet. We have to make sure we’re working toward safely opening it, according to state guidelines.

(10:30) May is Mental Health Matters Month. What advice do you have for people leading a team at this time of crisis?

Mental health is very important. Everyone’s mental health matters, and you have to take care of yourself and your employees, and your family, at this time.

You have to check in with yourself, and to check in with your employees and your family. There are so many services available to help.

“A lot of overcommunication needs to occur at this time.”

(12:00) Anything else?

We’re doing everything we can to get businesses online, but we have to take it slow. Shoving this thing wide open would be dangerous and misguided.

The successes we build in this phase will get us to the next phase. If we move too far ahead of the state, our funding could be jeopardized.