Linn County sheriff, DA won’t enforce COVID restrictions


"We draw the line when we are dealing with decisions relating to individual residences, religion, or businesses"

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Linn County sheriff says his deputies will not enforce Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s executive order closing certain businesses, limiting others, and restricting at-home and social gatherings.

In a joint press release Thursday, Sheriff Jim Yon and Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny said many businesses in the community are holding on by a thread, and individuals are feeling “cut off and alone.”

“We understand the realities of Covid-19, but we draw the line when we are dealing with decisions relating to individual residences, religion, or businesses,” the statement reads.

The announcement comes the same day Oregon set another record for most new cases and most coronavirus deaths.

Brown’s halt to social gatherings and restrictions on retail holds an executive order that makes the measures enforceable by a class C misdemeanor, which means violators could face 30 days in jail, a fine up to $1,250, or both.

Many local police agencies, including the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Portland Police Bureau, and Oregon State Police focused on an education-first approach during the governor’s original stay at home order, and plan to do the same this time around.

A PPB spokesperson told KOIN 6 News the bureau has not issued any citations so far in regard to the COVID restrictions. Officers will continue to “exercise discretion” in situations arising from the governor’s order.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office decided in the early days of the pandemic that it would not perform criminal enforcement on people who violated coronavirus measures, according to Yon. The rest of the statement reads as follows:

“Our role in the community is not to count how many people are at a residence or how an individual business conducts its affairs. We definitely do not interfere with religious organizations. We are going to continue to educate citizens, as needed, and that is where we will stop. We trust citizens to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate given their individual circumstances. We are not going to criminally enforce the COVID-19 restrictions contained in the Governor’s order.”

As of Thursday, Linn County had recorded a total of 18 deaths and 1162 positive cases of coronavirus. That’s about 9 cases per 1,000 residents (based on U.S. Census population estimates). By comparison, Multnomah County, which has struggled to meet the state’s COVID criteria, reported nearly 17 cases per 1,000 residents.

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