Butler County Police Sheriff Richard Jones told Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime” Thursday that he and his department “will not enforce” Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s mandatory mask mandate.
With most health experts now recommending the use of masks indoors to help stop the spread of coronavirus, many state and local leaders across the country have made the practice compulsory, leading in some cases to pushback from citizens and some GOP politicians.
Jones told Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner that the financial shortfalls his department is facing make enforcing mask-wearing “the last thing we need to do.”
“We are not going to enforce any mask-wearing,” Jones said. “I’ve told people not to call my dispatch center. We can’t be bogged down with people calling and saying, ‘My neighbor is not wearing a mask, this person is not wearing a mask.’ So, I’m not going to enforce it. I’m sworn in by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Ohio and I’m not gonna enforce it.”
Promising not to “write citations,” Jones said, “I’m not gonna be the mask police, period.”
The Butler County sheriff attributed the recent coronavirus spike to places “doing more testing,” stating that hospital ICUs in his county, the eighth largest in Ohio, are at around 10% capacity.
According to local paper the Journal-News, Butler County has had a total of 1,397 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases as of July 1.
In the same report, spokeswoman for the Health Collaborative Christa Hyson told the Journal-News that “… three weeks ago we had about 60 patients with COVID-19 in our southwest Ohio hospitals, now we are more than double that,” but added that she felt hospital capacity was still in a good position to handle all patients.
“We’re having more people that are testing, and they are going home,” Jones told Faulkner. “They are not going to the hospital. The hospitals have laid people off … The hospitals are not overrun or overfull. They are overtested. That is all it is.”
The Butler County sheriff told CNN in a Wednesday appearance that he has regularly worn a mask himself, but feels it “should be a choice” for individuals to make.