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Supervisor Kathryn Barger Talks Coronavirus Response, Sheriff's Department Feud

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger spoke candidly Wednesday about a number of issues facing the county, including the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, countywide protests and the board's ongoing feud with Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

"I definitely think there's a direct correlation between the protesters and the spike," Barger said. "I mean, obviously, the opening up probably threw something into it.

"But remember, the first night that we had the protesters was the first day that restaurants and all were allowed to reopen — many of them did not."

And because of the sheer size of protest crowds, Barger said contact tracing was next to impossible, though she noted that most of the county's new cases were in people between the ages of 18-40.

"It's not a criticism per se, what the protesters were protesting about," she said. "A lot of the protesters were not wearing a mask, and they definitely were not social distancing. And I believe that that's what we're seeing play out right now is as a result of that."

The comments came as L.A. County health officials reported an additional 1,260 newly confirmed cases, 34 deaths and a concerning growth in hospitalizations, but Barger said the county would likely not shut down like it did before.

"There is absolutely no appetite," she said. "And I have yet to meet with anybody that has an appetite to go back to Safer at Home."

Though, she said, it could mean that the pace of reopening might slow as officials get a better handle on the numbers.

"Realistically that would probably be a wise thing to do," she said. "And I'm talking about a delay of a week to see what the numbers come back."

And despite the economic situation the county now finds itself in as a result of coronavirus-related closures, she said closing everything down was the only option.

"There was no other way to do it," she said. "At that point, I was thinking more about public health."

Now, after months under Safer at Home orders, the county is facing a nearly $1 billion deficit, though Barger said layoffs were not necessarily imminent.

"We would rather curtail services and lay off individuals," she said.

And when it comes to the recent civil unrest as a result of recent fatal shootings by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies who do not currently have body-worn cameras, Barger disputed Sheriff Alex Villnueva's claim that the department lacked the funds to implement the program.

"He has the money for the cameras," she said. "And so now it's on his back. Get it done. Stop complaining. You wanted this office, act like a sheriff.

"Stop whining, and saying, 'They're picking on me.' Because at the end of the day, he was elected to do his job."

Villanueva responded Wednesday evening with a statement that read, in part:

"I have asked the board since my first week in office, and again, I am urging the Board of Supervisors right now to author an emergency motion to expedite the body-worn cameras program."

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