CALIFORNIA CITY — California City plans to send a letter to Kern County Board of Supervisors and the state of California as part of a campaign to separate East Kern from the Central Valley when it comes to coronavirus mandates.
Mayor Chuck McGuire made the announcement during a video message Monday afternoon, posted on the city’s website. He noted that in speaking with Kern County Public Health officials, he was unable to obtain the number of COVID-19-related deaths by zip code.
“We are not getting the true picture for COVID-19 in our area,” McGuire said. “It is quite obvious that the amount of cases between west Kern County and east Kern County is night and day.”
Kern County is among those Central Valley counties considered a hotspot in California when it comes to COVID-19 infections. According to Public Health Director Matt Constatine, Kern’s infection rate soared past 400 cases per 100,000 people.
Most of East Kern, however, do not have the high numbers seen in Bakersfield and the Central Valley communities. As of Tuesday, Aug. 4, Kern County had reported 21,228 positive cases of COVID-19 since testing began in March. Of those numbers, 5,878 have recovered; the virus has also claimed 151 lives.
As of Tuesday, California City reported 47 positive cases since March, with 22 people recovered. Mojave had 33 cases with 17 recoveries; Boron had 6 cases with two recoveries. Ridgecrest and Inyokern combined had 81 cases, with 18 recoveries.
Rosamond and Tehachapi, however, had record spikes over the last several weeks. Tehachapi zip code, which includes Tehachapi, Bear Valley Springs, Golden Hills and Stallion Springs, had 579 positive cases, with only 38 people recovered, according to Public Health Services.
Rosamond had the second highest count in East Kern, with 139 cases and 59 recoveries.
In addition, a lack of testing supplies has created a backlog of as many as 19 days among the companies the county contracts with to screen the results. This has led to a record surge in daily reported positive cases as the data comes back in a large batch, causing Kern to be placed on the state monitoring list and subject to another round of business closures.
McGuire argued that East Kern should be separated from the west portion.
“I feel that we should not be put in the same boat that west Kern County is in,” McGuire said. I feel we should be able to open up our salons again, churches, and our restaurants for indoor dinning.”
McGuire added he would like City Hall and council meetings to be reopened to the public, along with its off-highway vehicle parks.
“All reopenings would have restrictions just to be on the safe side,” McGuire said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19 mandated a stay-at-home order, requiring all non-essential businesses such as in-door dining, museums, bowling alleys, movie theaters, gyms and salons to close down in response to the growing pandemic.
The state gradually began to re-open in May before a new surge in COVID-19 cases prompted a reversal. Newsom on June 18 issued an edict requiring all Californians to wear masks in public spaces like grocery stores and areas where social distancing of six feet or more was unlikely. On July 13, the governor immediately ordered the re-closure of all indoor dining and bars, as well as a list of other business sectors indefinitely until California could completely tackle the spread of COVID-19.
On July 24, Kern County was required to implement additional closures, including inside church services, nail salons, indoor shopping malls and gyms. The closures will be indefinite.
McGuire stressed that while he believes COVID-19 to be a contagious virus capable of spreading, he disputed the data distributed by public health officials, state and federal leaders or reported by media outlets.
“I think the numbers have been inflated,” he said. “This is my personal opinion.”
He argued that East Kern’s population of approximately 127,229 people and its infection rate amounted to 0.005% of the county’s overall COVID-19 cases.
Kern County Public Health reports data on a daily basis via its online dashboard. It breaks data down by overall number of positive cases, people recovered, deaths, the number pending tests, age, gender and ethnic demographics.
Data is collected from testing centers and hospitals around the county and reported to Public Health, who contracts with two labs to conduct the process. Some hospitals, such as Ridgecrest Regional Hospital in Ridgecrest, provide independent updates related to the communities they serve.
Kern County also uses data tied into the California Department of Public Health, including using modeling scenarios. According to Constatine, Kern’s public health director, current models project COVID-19 cases peaking in February 2021 and likely ending in late summer.
Kern County’s ICU bed capacity among its hospitals is quickly reaching capacity, causing the Board of Supervisors to approve funding for emergency ICU nurses. Adventist Hospital Bakersfield and Tehachapi partnered with a nonprofit to set up tent facilities to accommodate non-COVID-19 overflow.
McGuire argued that the state was upholding a double standard when it comes to closures and to people who participated in protests during the aftermath of Geroge Floyd’s death in Minneapolis after officers placed him in a knee-lock.
“If people choose to go to church and pray, they are told you cannot because COVID-19 it is too contagious. If a family member dies, you cannot have a funeral service, because COVID-19 is too contagious. If you want to have a family celebration in your home, you cannot,” McGuire said. “But if you want to protest against law enforcement and you want to protest to defund law enforcement that is OK, it is not contagious. You do not have to watch your social distancing and do not have to wear a mask.”
He added that it “appears to be a ‘Do as we say, not as we do.’”
As part of the Newsom mandate, large gatherings have been largely discouraged or banned out of concern of spreading COVID-19. Kern County Public Health provided its own guidelines, stressing that gatherings should be limited to those within their own household.
Constantine and Kern County lead epidemiologist Kim Hernandez in July said that Kern County’s sudden uptick in new cases have largely come from homes. They issued the news ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, stressing that large family gatherings could potentially drive up COVID-19 cases.
McGuire did acknowledge Cal City residents are apparently following public health mandates when he goes out and about.
“Every time I have gone out to do shopping or run errands, I see everybody wearing a mask and I see everybody attempting to watch their social distancing, and for that I wish to publicly thank everybody,” McGuire said. “I have also noticed people are in good moods, and they are very polite to one another.”
McGuire's video address was posted directly to the city's website, californiacity-ca.gov