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Riverside County To Enforce New Orders On Masks, Gatherings

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Riverside County law enforcement will stop and talk to people if they see violations of new county orders on COVID-19. (Screenshot from Riverside County Sheriff’s Department YouTube channel)
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Riverside County this weekend took one of the state’s strictest measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 by banning all gatherings with non-household members and ordering all residents to wear face coverings outside.

Should people violate these new orders, law enforcement will step in -- though not in a punitive manner, said Jose Arballo, spokesman for the county’s public health department.

“If a patrol officer sees a gathering while they're on patrol, they might stop and talk to them and hopefully just by explaining what the order is, they would go ahead and break up and go about their business,” Arballo said.

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There is no plan to increase the number of patrols, he said.

With Easter Sunday coming up, the county is leaning on religious leaders to cancel gatherings.

“It doesn't have to come down to a police officer driving by and seeing a large gathering there,” Arballo said.

'YOU MUST'

The county is fighting a caseload that Arballo said has been rising faster than projected: 665 cases and 18 deaths as of Sunday morning. The deaths include two sheriff’s deputies who died from COVID-19-related complications last week.

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In a statement, the county’s public health officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, explained why he issued the new orders:

“While more and more Riverside County residents are getting COVID-19, not everybody’s getting the message. It started with staying home, social distance and covering your face. But now we change from saying that you 'should' to saying that you 'must.'”

Arballo said a segment of the population remains resistant to taking precautions. While picking up coffee Sunday morning, Arballo saw two other customers -- men who looked to be in their late 20s -- and urged them to wear face coverings.

“They were really not interested in hearing what I had to say,” Arballo said. “So those are the people that we're trying to reach.”

ON ALERT SINCE JANUARY

Riverside County was among the first jurisdictions in the state to advise its residents to wear masks when it made a recommendation last Tuesday. County officials were followed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles the next day.

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Arballo said county officials have been battling the spread of the virus since late January when nearly 200 Americans flown in from China were quarantined at the March Air Reserve Base.

“I will tell you from Jan. 28 when we found out the plane was on the way here, we've been planning for this,” Arballo said.

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