Last week, Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz joined Peter Daut during our special 6:30 p.m. newscast on Fox and CBS Local 2 to discuss the pandemic.
During the interview, Ruiz specifically mentioned Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, saying that Bianco thinks wearing masks or a stay-at-home order is a socialist, liberal agenda, and by publicly stating that he is not going to enforce it, it puts in people's minds that it's not important enough to wear a mask.
Sheriff Bianco responded to those comments with a lengthy statement.
"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
Ruiz returned to our special 6:30 p.m. show on Monday and responded to the Sheriff's statement.
"You know I'm a Doctor, and my number 1, 2, and 3 priority is to save lives. And that's what the point is. My statement is that all public officials need to take this virus seriously. We have over a hundred thousand people have died. All any elected official and public figure should be working on is how to save lives so that we can get through this as quickly and safely as possible," Ruiz said. "So the point is that this is a public health crisis, and we need to do everything we can to help the public understand and stay safe. Wash your hands, stay at home as much as you can, if you have to leave for essential errands, wear a mask, and stay six feet apart."
Ruiz says he is not surprised that this has become such a hot button political issue.
"This has become politicized and we need to move away from the politics and towards the public health aspect. Like I said, our hospitals are full, our ICU is at capacity, we need to do everything we can to make sure all public figures take this pandemic seriously, because we need to really educate the community to make sure they have all the information they need, that they take this seriously in order to save as many lives as we can," Ruiz said.
But where do we go from here and what does that mean for reopening?
"It means that our hospitals are really accommodating the surge that we're in. I just got a text from a local emergency physician this morning saying that it is "out of control." And we see that there are up to almost three times the hospitalizations now than we were at the peak of the initial wave that we saw back in the March/April time period," Ruiz said. So what we need to do Peter (Daut), knowing that Riverside County, is one of the highest risk demographically with the most transmission of coronavirus, local county needs to take local control and start issuing the mask order, the one that they rescinded back in May, and reverse that decision, and have a public press conference explaining what their surge intervention will be. I mean this has really peaked now and we haven't had a press conference on what the county's surge intervention and enforcement plan is going to be during this moment of high transmission and high hospitalization rate and high ICU usage."
As of Monday July 6, there are 20,555 confirmed cases with 486 deaths and 8,711 recoveries. There 495 patients hospitalized, 130 of those in the ICU.
Watch Peter Daut speaks with various valley business and community leaders about the pandemic and how our valley is adjusting. The show airs Monday through Friday at 6:30 p.m. on Fox 11 and CBS Local 2.