Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall is quarantining at his home the rest of the week after testing positive for COVID-19, he told us today over the phone. Staying busy on Zoom meetings, Sheriff Kendall said his energy is good, and his biggest symptoms were a scratchy throat and a positive COVID test.
Speaking to why he wanted to publicly address his COVID-19 positive test, Sheriff Kendall said, “I’m a public official, I don’t let there be a vacuum of information. People deserve to know why I’m out for a week. This is not something to be ashamed of.”
In his absence, Sheriff Kendall said he trusts Undersheriff Darren Brewster and Captain Greg Van Patten to lead the department as it navigates a seemingly continuous ebb and flow of cases amongst staff and inmates and the county jail. “We get a few people out, and then a few people come back,” Sheriff Kendall described.
Similar to his experience, Sheriff Kendall’s staff and the inmates under his agency’s care have experienced only minor symptoms. MCSO’s experience navigating the circuitous quarantine and isolation protocols laid out by the California Department of Public Health is no different than “Safeway, or Home Depot, or other local businesses. That’s our workforce and we’re going through the same thing they’re going through,” Sheriff Kendall said.
Sheriff Kendall positioned his agency early on in the pandemic as unwilling and unable to punitively enforce COVID-19 protocols. He recalled getting contacted by Mendocino County residents early on in the pandemic requesting deputies set up roadblocks on Highway 101 and Highway 1 to keep tourists out and, in the eyes of these constituents, COVID-19 as well.
Due to the unconstitutionality of those sorts of measures, Sheriff Kendall committed early on to assist in educating Mendocino County residents about protocols but could not commit them to be part of the Code Enforcement infrastructure. “I don’t have enough deputies for the murders in Mendocino County, let alone Code Enforcement.”
Sheriff Kendall told us he has received all available COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster, and masks when necessary, and “still caught it. People are trying to assign blame. It’s a virus. I can’t arrest it. I can’t put handcuffs on it. How on Earth do you think we can do better than we have been?”
Thinking about the future of COVID-19 protocols and public health, Sheriff Kendall said, “It all comes down to personal responsibility. You’re responsible for your actions and your health, everyone wants absolute freedom, but you only get that by exercising personal responsibility.”
Sheriff Kendall warned that anytime “someone wants to hand their personal responsibility to the government, there is a trade-off. The government will take some of your freedom.”
Addressing local COVID-19 protestors that have entered businesses en masse refusing to comply with masking protocols, Sheriff Kendall said, “If you want to have civil disobedience towards the government, go ahead. Somebody’s store is not the government, that store does not belong to the government, that is somebody’s property.”
Reflecting on his personal experience with COVID-19, Sheriff Kendall said he was glad he was vaccinated. “I’ve heard of people getting really sick because of this stuff, but I’m not, and it’s probably because of the vaccine.”