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Congressman Ruiz criticizes Sheriff Bianco over comments on masks, order enforcement

Congressman says Raul Ruiz joined Peter Daut from Washington D.C. Thursday afternoon to discuss coronavirus health rules enforcement and the recent surge in cases.

When asked about whether he believed Riverside County had done enough enforcing health orders. Ruiz responded by criticizing county leaders and the Sheriff Chad Bianco.

"When you have a sheriff who flat out thinks that wearing masks or stay at home policy is a socialist liberal agenda, it creates mixed messages, and if he is publically stating how he is not going to enforce, it puts in people's minds that it's not important enough to wear a mask. Or that this is a political issue. It's not. It's a public health issue," Ruiz said.

Sheriff Bianco responded to Ruiz's comments in a statement to News Channel 3, writing:

"It’s interesting a politician would try make this political.  Do we now have a US Congressman who isn’t aware there is no current stay at home order while sending a message to his constituents there is one? Making that misleading statement while not sharing the truth that I have consistently stated publicly for months that people should wear masks, and support those who do even when there is not an order, this is the mixed message.  Maybe he has not watched my videos?   Apparently the congressman is wanting me to jail mask violators, while simultaneously supporting the releases of violent offenders released from our jail?  That is the mixed message.  

I believe in people; I also strongly believe it is better to gain voluntary compliance based on the good of Riverside County residents instead of criminal enforcement of not wearing a mask, which would be perceived by many as arbitrary or unfair.  The political agenda of the congressman is no secret. I’m sure he hopes there is a video of violent confrontation between a deputy and an unmasked resident during their arrest.   I’m happy to disappoint him.    If he spent more time in Riverside County maybe he would see the major majority of us are wearing masks." 

- Sheriff Chad Bianco

Sheriff Bianco went viral in May after a speech he made during a Board of Supervisors meeting explaining why he would not enforce the county's health orders.

"From the beginning, I told you that I would not be enforcing the stay-at-home order partly because I trusted our residents' ability to do the right thing without the fear of being arrested," Sheriff Bianco told county supervisors on May 5. "I refuse to make criminals out of business owners, single moms, and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights."

Watch: Riverside County Sheriff discusses order enforcement on Fox News (05/08/2020)

Bianco has publicly expressed his opinion on enforcing the county orders since they were first issued.

During the interview, Congressman Ruiz called on the county leaders to "not abdicate their responsibility and defer to the state" as the county has to create local precautions based on our higher risk of demographics compared to the rest of California.

"That's why the local county needs to step up and create local ordinances, local orders, reverse decision of rescinding the public health order of wearing a mask and then talking about what their enforcement mechanism will be. It doesn't have to be citing people in the streets, it could be check ups where we provide counseling, warnings and technical assistance to businesses who are having multiple violations," Ruiz told Peter Daut.

Ruiz mentioned that he has seen the majority of businesses do a great job in making sure they have plexiglass, disinfectant, people wearing masks, particularly in Palm Springs.

Ruiz said he hasn't seen the necessary action from the county, causing him to fear that we might be heading in the direction the direction of another lockdown.

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