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Health

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco tests positive for coronavirus, says symptoms are mild – Press-Enterprise

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, who has received national attention for his refusal to enforce coronavirus mask mandates, revealed Wednesday, Jan. 27, that he has tested positive for the virus and has experienced mild COVID-19 symptoms.

Bianco said he has been quarantining at home since testing positive on Jan. 19.

“I couldn’t taste my coffee,” Bianco said in an interview. “I was, ‘Oh, something’s wrong.’”

Bianco, 53, said he still lacks the senses of taste and smell.

The sheriff announced his diagnosis in a Facebook post, driven by what he said were false rumors that he was dying and in hiding. The rumors of the illness intensified on social media Tuesday when Bianco did not attend the Board of Supervisors meeting for a discussion of the Sheriff’s Department applying for $3 million in state coronavirus emergency supplemental funding.

Bianco has been running the Sheriff’s Department with phone calls and Zoom meetings.

“People would never know I was not at work, other than the background being the kitchen instead of the office. I’ve had to put the dogs out a couple of times,” he said.

Bianco said he didn’t believe any of his command staff has been infected as a result of potential exposure to him.

Everyone in the household, and some who don’t live there, was infected, Bianco said. He believes the first to be infected was his son in law, a deputy who in the same shift performed CPR on a child who had tested positive and fought with a man whose household also was COVID-positive.

“If I’m going to get COVID because my son in law did CPR on a child, I’ll take COVID any day,” Bianco said.

The sheriff has earned praise and criticism for his blunt comments about the coronavirus, at one point stating, “If you are afraid to go to jail and catch the virus, then don’t go to jail, don’t break the law.” Two of his deputies have died from the virus.

In November, Cal/OSHA fined the Sheriff’s Department almost $18,000 for violating state COVID-19 regulations at Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in French Valley — fines that the county is appealing.

In a Dec. 4 YouTube video, Bianco — while asking the public to mask up and socially distance — accused Gov. Gavin Newsom of trying to strongarm counties into enforcing his stay-at-home order, which has since been lifted.

In May, Bianco told Riverside County supervisors he would not enforce now-defunct county business restrictions.

While Bianco is not the only sheriff to put educating the members of the public ahead of citing them, his defiance has made him a hero of lockdown foes nationwide and a popular figure in conservative media. He’s been interviewed on Fox News and One America News Network.

But that defiance has also prompted criticism.

Dolores Green, executive director of the Riverside County Medical Association, has said she worries that the lack of enforcement would encourage large gatherings that could spread the virus.

Bianco had previously said the coronavirus is real. But he said Wednesday that while he believes masks can be helpful, they aren’t the total solution to preventing the transmission of the virus. He said he wears masks in public more to make others comfortable than to limit the chance of infection.

The sheriff said it’s difficult to avoid such a widespread virus and attributes his family’s recovery to living a healthy lifestyle. He has said he does not plan to get vaccinated.

Bianco said he believes people with good immune systems are less likely to suffer serious COVID-19 symptoms or death.

“What’s not going to come out of this, and I wish it would, the MDs (doctors) will not tell people this, the government will not tell people this and I don’t think it’s sexy enough for the media to report this, people need to take better care of themselves. I know there are exceptions. But with this, we know that if you aren’t healthy, you might not recover from this,” Bianco said.

The World Cancer Research Fund International agrees that a healthy lifestyle can improve a body’s ability to resist infection.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says getting vaccinated is an important step in the prevention of contracting the virus. And wearing a mask leads the CDC’s list of ways to slow the spread that includes staying at least six feet away from people not in your household and avoiding crowds.

 

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