COVID-19 impact in Tehachapi
April 11, 2020
Get out and run!
District Manager Corey Torres said the district has given the eggs it had purchased for the popular Easter Egg Hunt to a volunteer group to give to families for Easter egg hunts at home. The Easter Egg Hunt, which was scheduled for Sat. April 11 at West Park, draws hundreds of children every year in four age categories up to age 10. The event includes photos with the Easter Bunny. This year, parents will need to put on those bunny ears.
The TVRPD also has adapted the Run & Ride with the Wind 5k and Duathlon to current circumstances. TVRPD Recreation Manager Ashley Krempien said the district has reduced the entry fee to $30 and will send the race packet to participants, who will do the run and ride on their own time. The race packet includes a bib, event shirt (see photo for logo) and a finisher’s medal.
“We will mail the packets on May 1,” Krempien said. “The participants will have a week, from Monday, May 11 to Sunday, May 17 to finish.”
The Duathlon is a two-mile run, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and another two-mile run. The 5k is 3.1 miles.
“It’s an incentive to get outside and get moving,” she said.
Participants will establish their own course. It can be as simple as one mile out and one mile back, six miles on the bike and six miles back, and another one-mile circuit.
The self-made routes are to keep people separated.
“We are not suggesting routes because we don’t want to facilitate too many people in one area,” Krempien said.
The participants can send in their times to the TVRPD for comparative results data. A snapshot of a person completing the race or completing the event offers a chance for a prize.
Out at Brite Lake, which the TVRPD manages for recreational access, people still can walk in and fish. The campground is closed, and the lake is closed to vehicle traffic. The Saturday, April 18 Fishing Derby has been cancelled.
The virus pandemic has also postponed a lot of programs that provide recreation for thousands of children in the Tehachapi area.
“Our budget is impacted by lost revenues,” Torres said. “It’s hard to ultimately tell how severely, since we intend on still running our programs, just at a later date in the year.’
The TVRPD is looking ahead.
When the stay-at-home order is lifted, “we will be ready,” Krempien said. “We have not stopped working or planning.”
In the meantime, residents can enjoy the TVRPD’s Meadowbrook, Central and West parks.
Community services districts carry on
The area community services districts have closed their offices to the public and halted board meetings that require attendance in a meeting room.
At Bear Valley Springs, essential services employees [police department, the gate, water, sewer, solid waste transfer station] are working as usual, “not remotely,” Police Chief Tim Melanson said. Officers are taking precautions with protective gear when they go to the homes of residents.
“Residents have been advised by newsletter they need to file reports on non-violent incidents and non-violent-in-progress by phone,” Melanson said.
It’s too early to tell if the virus shutdown has generated an increase in any type of crime, he said.
The Kern County Fire Department Station 16 at Bear Valley Springs is maintaining its usual staff of three firefighters at all times. They are taking more precautions with personal protection equipment.
Golden Hills Community Services District Manager Susan Wells said the district’s employees are working as normal, but the office is closed to the public.
“We have waived past due fees and credit card processing fees,” she said. “We are taking it one month at a time.”
“Many people are using the district’s Nature Walk,” she said.
Stallion Springs Police Chief Gary Crowell said his department is operating with all its officers. They utilize personal protective gear depending on the situation, he said.
“We have adequate supplies,” he said. “It’s difficult to obtain. We have enough for the short term…we could burn through it rapidly.”
The next couple of weeks are crucial, Crowell said.
Property crimes have gone up, he said, but the trend had begun before the virus hit. He cautioned that property crimes are crimes of opportunity and urged people to keep garage doors closed and their cars and homes secured.
People are arriving in Stallion Springs from other places.
“A lot of people from outside the area are coming in,” he said. “They are people with second homes or family here.”
“People are loving it”
The COVID-19 virus has not stopped home construction and remodeling that was on a robust trajectory in the Tehachapi area before the shutdown, and the situation has encouraged the use of a more streamlined permit process.
“More of our clients’ applications are being submitted electronically,” Al Annan, assistant director of the Building and Code Division of the Kern County Public Works Dept., said. “At the Bakersfield office, where 10 percent were being submitted electronically [before the shutdown], now, it’s 95 to 97 percent. People are loving it.”
When paper blueprints come in for plan check, they are sequestered for a minimum of 48 hours in case the virus is lurking on them. The plans can be dropped in a box at the county administration offices in Bakersfield and at the Kern County Building and Development Department office in Tehachapi at 414 West Tehachapi Blvd., Suite G.
At the end of the day, the plans are placed in a bag with the date and processed.
The Kern County Building Dept. Tehachapi office is open for business on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a break at 11:30 a.m. for lunch.
Annan said that social distancing protocols are being observed for inspections. If the project is under construction and open, the inspector may enter. If it’s a remodel and people are living on the premises, the inspector does not enter.
Annan said the inspectors may do virtual inspections on a case-by-case basis if it’s a minor remodel, like the installation of a water heater or changing windows. Residents can use their smartphone, Facetime or iPad to show the inspector the project. He said the virtual process depends on the discretion and comfort level of the inspector.
Annan emphasized that the department monitors phone calls and emails constantly and that inspectors are going out every day.
Bill Willis of Willis Construction said the shutdown has presented some problems.
“The Bear Valley offices are closed,” he said. “You can’t get approvals.”
Then there’s a manpower issue.
“It has caused a shortage of manpower for me,” Willis said. “The guys stay home with their kids because their wives have a better job.”
Stallion Springs Police Chief Gary Crowell, who keeps a close eye on his community, said, “Construction is alive and well out here. There’s a lot of concrete pouring and roofing going on.”
City of Tehachapi Building Inspector Charles Arbaut said the city is processing building permits by appointment only.
The public can report businesses that may be out of compliance with the governor’s stay-at-home order by filling out a form on the Non-Compliant Businesses map in the Coronavirus Disease 2019 section of the Kern County Health Department web site. The map shows the locations of the reported businesses with little red dots, which, when clicked, show the name of the business, the address and the nature of the alleged violation. Those entering a complaint are asked to provide details about the violation.
The map can be abused, as anyone can register a complaint about any business, which stands until the inspector checks it out or it is obvious that the complaint is not valid. The Tehachapi Police Department briefly was tagged on the map as out of compliance by “Operating,” and the Bear Valley Police Department was accused of “Public Gathering.” Some businesses in Kern County have been red dotted for “Social Distancing” or “Dine in” (for a restaurant).
“We have no control over who makes the complaint,” said a spokesperson at the Health Department COVID-19 call center. “We forward it to inspectors, and they determine if we need to go out there.”
The red dots may change to yellow after an inspection (“Inspected”) or to green (“Complaint closed”).
Papa’s House employee Cathy Butala was present when the county inspector arrived at the Stallion Springs restaurant in response to a complaint.
“They thought we were having dine in,” she said. “That’s ridiculous. We have no chairs or tables.” She said the inspector said, “I can see that, “and was on his way. The Papa’s House red dot changed to yellow and the dialog box says “Inspected.”
The Order of the Health Officer can be found at http://www.kernpublichealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Order-of-the-Health-Officer.pdf.
California Correctional Institution
According to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), it’s safer to be an inmate than a CDCR employee. The latest CDCR/CCHCS (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/California Correctional Health Care Services) data as of April 9: Statewide in all the facilities 33 incarcerated persons have tested positive and 70 CDCR/CCHCS employees have tested positive, including one employee at California Correctional Institution. At CCI, 12 inmates tested and none tested positive.
The Post Office employees are now wearing masks and are protected by hanging panels of plexiglass. The bank card touch pads are covered with plastic. Grocery store clerks also are protected by newly installed plexiglass panels. No carry-in bags are allowed, as they might carry the virus, so it’s back to fresh store paper or plastic bags.