Sonoma County law enforcement agencies are prioritizing education over enforcement of the local shelter-in-place order issued last week, mirroring an approach adopted throughout the state as communities learn to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.
The county shelter-in-place order, which began one day before a similar statewide mandate initiated Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, lasts through April 7. Public health officials instructed people to stay home unless they are engaging in essential activities, ranging from picking up groceries to seeking medical attention and exercising outdoors, provided they maintain a safe distance from others.
It prevents restaurants from serving customers on site, though allows them to order food for pickup, delivery or drive-thru service. Most businesses are required to suspend operations for three weeks, except for a lengthy list of essential enterprises such as hospitals and grocery stores, which are exempted from the requirement.
Those who fail to comply with the rules laid out in the order could face a maximum of 90 days behind bars, a fine up to $1,000, or both for a misdemeanor under a California Health and Safety Code section that penalizes people who ignore orders from health officers.
A separate state health and safety code gives local sheriff’s and police departments the authority to enforce health mandates. Local agencies are hoping to forgo that route and will instead urge individuals to comply with the order voluntarily, said Petaluma Police Chief Ken Savano, who also serves as the president of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association. The group of local leaders have discussed how to best unify their strategies and public messaging in response to the shelter-in-place order, Savano said.
“We want to provide clear communication and expectations and make sure that the community is informed,” Savano said.
The approach is being adopted by law enforcement agencies throughout the state as residents are told to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Ron Lawrence, president of the California Police Chiefs Association and chief of the Citrus Heights Police Department.