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Sheriff says obey stay-at-home order; board holds special meeting


By Victoria Metcalf

Assistant Editor

[email protected]


Plumas County Sheriff’s officers, as of late Saturday evening, March 21, aren’t responsible for enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, but that doesn’t mean the sheriff and his peace officers are looking the other way.

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors, department heads, health officers, the sheriff, district attorney and others responded to Plumas County’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis during a special 4 p.m. meeting.

Some of the newest information came directly from Sheriff Todd Johns who said that his officers won’t be standing guard at grocery stores for crowd management and social distancing recommendations, but they would be out watching for “bad guys.”

Johns told the same audience and those viewing at home that there is widespread anxiety in Plumas County at this time. “My goal is to reduce some of the fear,” he said.

“Don’t feed into the mass hysteria that some people are putting out there,” Johns warned the public. The web site, as put out by the Plumas County Health Agency, is the most up to date. Johns strongly encouraged the public to go to that source for correct, detailed information. “Stay well informed.”

Officers will not be stopping vehicles or people on the street to see if “you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing,” he added about the COVID-19 regulations put in place by the governor.

What the sheriff’s officers are doing is taking the opportunity to educate the public, and what to do if they’re not complying with the governor’s regulations. He explained that if a business is in violation of remaining open and not following the state’s guidelines, that the state health department or the state’s ABC (alcohol and beverage control agency) could be asked to handle the situation.

Businesses or people not complying with the governor’s requirements are in violation of the state’s government code. While infractions are considered a misdemeanor, they can result in a citation or arrest, Johns said.

Along these lines, Johns said he had received complaints about three bars that were open.

He said he talked to the owners. One was already voluntarily closing the business in observance of the state requirements. While all three bars also had off-sale liquor licenses, two owners wanted to keep that portion of the business open. Johns said that social distancing would be difficult to enforce and owners could be opening themselves up to liability. And if ABC gets involved “what are the ramifications?”

In another issue, Johns said that he heard that some counties were releasing their inmates. “At this time I have no intention of releasing inmates in the jail,” he said.

There has not been a single case of COVID-19 in the facility, as with the rest of the county as of March 21. And inmates are already isolated in the jail, Johns pointed out.

Supervisor Lori Simpson was taking texts from various members of the public on her cell phone. One person asked about marshall law. “This is our opportunity to avoid marshall law,” Johns said in answering the question. “We have the ability to stop it or slow it down.”

And that’s the governor’s intent in his stay at home order.

“We are at a point where some people are just not understanding the potential of this,” Johns said about COVID-19.

District Attorney

District Attorney David Hollister explained what is and is not going on with the courts. He said they are working under an order from the chief justice of California to limit exposure.

In some cases the 48-hour rule for arraignment of inmates has been extended by the state.

“I agree with the governor’s order completely,” Hollister said.

Behavioral health is assisting the courts by allowing inmates to use the Telehealth equipment to cut down on the need to drive inmates to and from the courthouse.

But while some things are being postponed or rescheduled, Hollister was adamant that anyone who takes advantage of homeowners being unaware or other convenient crimes during this calamity, that he will prosecute any individuals to the fullest extent of the law.

Reduced public access

Although the front office at the Sheriff’s Office is closed and some services are not available at this time (fingerprinting services for example), calls are still being taken.

Most departments are asking clients to call ahead and make appointments for services. Limiting contact is important in reducing the potential spread of COVID-19.

Those weighing-in on the conference call included supervisors Kevin Goss and Sherrie Thrall, Behavioral Health Director Tony Hobson, and Social Services Director Neal Caiazzo.

Those who attended the board meeting included Simpson, Supervisor Jeff Engel, County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick, County Council Craig Settlemire, Clerk of the Board Nancy DaForno, Hollister, Johns, Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff, Plumas County Health Officer Mark Satterfield, Tina Venable of the public health emergency program, Human Relations Director Nancy Selvage, and Auditor Roberta Allen.

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