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California sheriff says he won’t enforce vaccine mandates

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco says his department “will not be blackmailed, bullied or used as muscle” against residents without shots.

Updated: September 17, 2021 - 12:23am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said he would not enforce a vaccine mandate in his county in the wake of Los Angeles County issuing vaccine mandates and after President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing OSHA to regulate and enforce a vaccine mandate on employers with more than 100 workers.

"Over the past couple of weeks, the idea of forced vaccination has caused much concern across the entire country," Bianco said in a statement this week, adding that he will “not enforce the vaccine mandate on Sheriff's Department employees." Bianco also shared his views in a video conversation posted on Facebook.

As a duly elected sheriff who took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, he said, “It is my responsibility to protect the public from the criminal element, as well as being the last line of defense from tyrannical government overreach. The government has no authority to mandate your health choices. As your Sheriff, I have an obligation to guard your liberty and freedom.”

Bianco and his family recovered from COVID-19 last winter.

"I am certainly not anti-vaccine; I am anti-vaccine for me," he said.

Bianco has criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lockdown policies, and he refused to enforce Newsom’s stay at-home order last year.

Bianco said at the time that his department “will not be blackmailed, bullied or used as muscle against Riverside County residents in the enforcement of the governor's order.”

The sheriff's declaration comes after a University of California professor and several staff members sued the university system's Board of Regents and president over its vaccine mandate, arguing it excludes allowing for those with natural immunity to be exempt from the policy.

The chief plaintiff, Aaron Kheriaty, is a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Irvine campus who directs UCI's Medical Ethics Program and is a member of the UC Office of the President Critical Care Bioethics Working Group. Kheriaty contracted COVID-19 in July 2020, saying he developed natural immunity. Since then, he has raised concerns about a vaccine mandate to university administrators, whose response he said was "mostly with radio silence," prompting him to sue.

"If my immunity is as good, indeed, very likely better, than that conferred by the vaccine, there doesn’t seem to be any rational basis for discriminating against my form of immunity and requiring me to get a different form of immunity,” he said, according to ABC-7.

The university’s policy requires, with few exceptions, all students, faculty and staff to be “vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus before they will be allowed on campus or in a facility or office. Individuals will be required to show proof of vaccination …”

The policy allows for a medical exemption “consistent with CDC guidance and manufacturer labeling on contraindications and precautions. As with other policies, and, in the case of employees as required by federal and California law, faculty, staff and students will also be eligible to request accommodations based on disability or religious belief, and deferrals are available for those who are pregnant.”

Those with approved exemptions, accommodations or deferrals must “remain masked in all public settings, and comply with the local testing plan,” and employees who choose not to be vaccinated and receive no approved exemption, accommodation or deferral, face disciplinary actions, the policy states.

Members of the Los Angeles Police Department were the latest to sue over a vaccine mandate, and two other Los Angeles firefighter and police groups say they plan to sue.

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