Butler County Sheriff Clamors for COVID-19 Vaccine Despite Refusing to Enforce Mask Order

"I’m not going to be the mask police," Sheriff Richard K. Jones told CNN last July when Ohio had 58,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Jan 26, 2021 at 1:33 pm
click to enlarge Sheriff Richard K. Jones - Photo: butlersheriff.org
Photo: butlersheriff.org
Sheriff Richard K. Jones

A Butler County sheriff is blasting Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, just months after publicly refusing to slow the virus’s spread through mask enforcement.

Sheriff Richard K. Jones took to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page to say that officers have not been offered the vaccine yet.

“Sheriff Richard K. Jones reports he is highly disgusted on the unorganized distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination,” the Jan. 25 post reads. “The Butler County Sheriff’s Office along with the other Police agencies have not received the COVID-19 vaccination.”

“The Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officers have not been offered the vaccination and they have high risk individuals coming through the doors from prisons and other correctional facilities on a daily basis. Social distancing is practically impossible for not only the inmates but the Corrections staff,” the post adds.

Butler County General Health District is moving into phase 1B of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s vaccination rollout for Ohio. This phase does not specifically include members of law enforcement.

The governor has advocated for proper mask usage, physical distancing and hand washing to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Currently, there are statewide orders for wearing masks and a curfew between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for all non-essential activities.

But Jones has refused to enforce Ohio’s mask order to contain the virus. During an appearance on CNN in July, Jones said “It’s an order [from DeWine] that came down. It goes up, it goes down. And I’m not going to be the mask police.”

“I’m telling people, don’t call 911. I am not going to enforce the mask wearing,” he continued. “We tell people, if you want to call the governor’s office or the health department, they can put a little yellow light on their car and they can stop people.”

At the time of Jones’s appearance in 2020, CNN reported that Ohio had more than 58,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,000 deaths from the virus, and that Butler County had more than 1,600 cases and at least 47 deaths.

Now there are 28,285 confirmed cases within the county and 225 deaths, per Jan. 16 data from Butler County General Health District. 

On the Ohio Public Health Advisory System map, Butler County is red, indicating “very high exposure and spread.” Nearby Hamilton County is purple, meaning “severe exposure and spread.” It has been at Ohio’s highest emergency level for several weeks.

But while Jones seemingly doesn't care to help slow the coronavirus spread within his county through basic efforts like masks, he is interested in acquiring the vaccine so that he and his officers can avoid the virus.

"I get calls from 70 and 80 year olds wanting to know when they’re going to get their shot. At the rate they’re going it’s going to take years for the community to get the first vaccine. God only knows how long it will take for the second one to come around," he says through his Facebook post. "The law enforcement deaths in 2020 were very high and the highest percentage were from COVID. This is the most unorganized cluster I’ve seen in my lifetime."

DeWine recently addressed Ohio’s shortage of vaccine doses, noting a delivery delay and slow vaccine production.

Butler County residents can learn more about vaccine distribution on the BCGHD website.