TAFT – The Taft City Council voted unanimously at a special meeting Monday night to send a letter from Mayor Dave Noerr to Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine asking for his assistance in coming up with safety guidelines for barber shops, hair salons, flower shops, gyms and other small businesses to reopen on May 4. No comprehensive list of business types was discussed.

Kern County has been suppressing the rates for coronavirus infections and deaths, the letter said, but the city is concerned about the growing negative effects of the business closures.

“As the current data shows a flattening of the curve regarding infections and fatalities, the curves for financial and psychological negative impacts are growing at a frightening and unsustainable rate,” the letter states.

Citing fears of rising child abuse, spousal abuse and drug and alcohol use, the Council told Constantine that it intends to move towards reopening local business with proper precautions.

“Beginning with recognizing that some businesses listed as ‘nonessential’ are indeed critical to quality of life and psychological well-being of a community, we want to modify restrictions placed on these businesses with new business processes that integrate social distancing, PPE and additional hygiene processes that have become a current lifestyle necessity.”

The city projects May 4 as the date to have the new processes in place to allow business to reopen.

The action came at the end of an 80-minute long special meeting.

Half of the meeting was spent reading public comments submitted in writing or email into the record.

The sentiment ran about 4-1 in favor of reopening the businesses, churches and the Historic Fort.

Many of the comments came from business owners themselves who have been impacted, and some came from the general public.

The Council then discussed the matter for 40 minutes before Noerr read the draft of the letter and the other four council members, Josh Bryant, Ed Whiting, Jeff Eveland and Orchel Krier agreed to  sign the letter with Noerr.

During the discussion, Noerr noted that Kern County has had a low infection rate than many counties and a much lower mortality rate from COVID-19 than many more densely populated counties.

The numerous public comments came from a cross-section of people.

Many business owners spoke in favor of relaxing the restrictions.

Some spoke of the hardships the closures were having on their families, others spoke of the individuals rights to decide what is safe for them.

Others spoke about the effects the isolation is having on individuals.

Those opposed to relaxing the closure rules spoke of the potential cost in human lives if the coronavirus begins to spread faster in the community.

A local physician, while not coming out against relaxing the closures, cautioned that there is not sufficient testing to determine the true extent of coronavirus in the community.

A safety officer called for restrictions to be lifted in “a precise and controlled way.”

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