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Tehama County sheriff makes masks optional for deputies on patrol

The sheriff in Tehama County is making masks optional for his deputies while they are out on patrol, despite the state-wide mask mandate issued by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Posted: Jul 11, 2020 7:29 AM

RED BLUFF, Calif. - The sheriff in Tehama County is making masks optional for his deputies while they are out on patrol, despite the state-wide mask mandate issued by Governor Gavin Newsom.

RELATED: California orders people to wear masks in higher-risk settings

"I think masks are very important," said Robert McMinn, a Tehama County resident.

But in a letter sent out to deputies by Sheriff Dave Hencratt, it explains that masks can "jeopardize the physical safety of [it's] his sheriff's deputies."

"If somebody feels that it's their right not to wear one who am I to judge?" said Alithia Rutherford, a Tehama County resident.

Hencratt's letter explains that masks impact "verbal and non-verbal language, reduces the sense of smell and taste, restricts breathing and causes anxiety."

"So a deputy is wearing a mask and it's hindering his job if like they were in pursuit or something like that, by all means, they should not have to wear it," McMinn said.

Another reason for not wearing masks? Masks can fog up when you're wearing glasses, according to the letter written by Hencratt.

"If you did it by the Fed OSHA or Cal OSHA standards that would be better protection because there wouldn't be the fogging of the lenses, cause you know how to get them fit right," said Clarence Hemphill, a Tehama County resident who disagrees with the sheriff's mask policy.

Deputies can still wear masks if they want to.

"I feel that we should wear the masks to protect one another because if we're healthy then we can be carriers of COVID-19," Rutherford said.

"Because then they won't bring it to you or when they forcibly stop us and interact with us," Hemphill said.

Deputies must wear masks in the Tehama County Courthouse.

Action News Now reached out to the sheriff's office for comment about this story - they refused to talk to us.

The letter also points out that the risks of wearing masks "far outweigh the risk of exposure" from the coronavirus.

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