Merced County strengthens Stay at Home order, violations ‘punishable by fine, county jail sentencing, or both’

News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Merced County gave some teeth to its Stay at Home order Wednesday, when it became the first in the region to announce enforcement of the directive.

Health Officer Kenneth Bird announced modifications to the current order Wednesday, citing rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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The county’s order, like many others, instructs people to stay in unless providing or receiving essential services, closes non-vital businesses, prohibits unnecessary gatherings or travel and restricts access to some recreation areas like parks.

But unlike others, the newly strengthened health order comes with consequences, saying:

“Violation of or failure to comply with this order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.”

In a statement Sheriff Vern Warnke asked everyone to take the order seriously.

“If you heed the directives of public health officials, then my deputies won’t be forced to take enforcement actions. Risking a criminal record because of mere disregard to health and safety is reckless, careless and simply not worth it,” said Warnke.

According to Bird “Merced County has one of the lowest ratios of hospital beds and advanced health care equipment to the population in the state.”

He said if people don’t comply with the directive, the healthcare system could become overwhelmed.

The nine page order outlines many exemption, but asks people to social distance whenever possible.

Read the new health order here.

COVID-19 resource links:

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