By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to increase throughout the country, state and county, so do the impacts to residents through business closures, reduction of hours and changes in the daily services. Kern River Valley residents are realizing that no area has been spared from the effects of this world-wide health crisis as we learn to deal with the “new normal” of daily life.
In response to concerns over COVID-19, all schools have closed, along with churches, bars and many small businesses. One of most notable impacts has been felt by owners and operators of Kern River Valley restaurants that were required to close their dining areas. Rather than total shut down, restaurants remain open for “take out” orders only.
Kern Valley grocery stores have modified their hours, in order to clean and sanitize their facilities on a regular basis. Vons has established a specific time to allow senior citizens and residents with weakened immune systems to shop. Additionally, grocery stores have placed a limit on high-demand items such as paper goods, bread, milk and meat and have established policy for “social distancing”.
On March 16, Kern County declared a local emergency and closed most County buildings to the public, with only essential services being offered. The county noted that essential-staffing would remain until April 14, although with the quickly changing situation and daily increase in the number of Kern County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, it is expected that the reduced staffing could continue until the end of April.
Following is a partial list of the status of local county offices that offer services in the Kern River Valley:
•Fire and Sheriff emergency services will continue to be fully staffed
•Local animal shelters are closed to the public.
•Functions such as licensing are available on-line
•Animal Control officers are available on an emergency basis
Aging and Adult Services
•Senior Centers are closed in order to protect the most vulnerable population from the community spread. Residents can reserve a meal for pick up, with a reservation
•Meals on Wheels deliveries continue as normally scheduled
•Lobbies are closed to the public
•Applications for benefits can be made online by visiting the online application website at www.c4yourself.com
•To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at 661-631-6011 or 760-375-6049 in Ridgecrest.
•For more information, visit the department website at www.kcdhs.org
•All branches of the Kern County Library system are closed
Assessor/Recorder and Treasurer/Tax Collector
•Offices are closed
•Taxpayers may submit taxes online at http://www.kcttc.co.kern.ca.us/Payment/mainsearch.aspx and through mail. April 10 deadline will stand. Don’t send cash through the mail.
•The Kern River Valley’s transit system’s fixed routes have been suspended. In their place, they are offering curb-to-curb Dial-a-Ride service, with additional buses being added as needed. Dial-a-Ride can be reached at 1-800-323-2396.
•The Lake Isabella to Bakersfield route and Lake Isabella to Ridgecrest route will continue to operate on their regular schedule
•Additional information is available on the Department’s website: kerntransit.org
•The Lake Isabella office remains open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
•Permits are not being accepted over the counter. Residents are encouraged to apply online
•Plans can be dropped off, but will be placed in a quarantine container for two days before they are forwarded on to Bakersfield for plan check.
•The Kern Valley Transfer Station has reduced days of operation and is now open Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for self-haul only
Supervisor Mick Gleason
•Gleason’s Field Rep, Debbie Freeland is working from home; however, she checks the office once a week for voice mail messages and notes
•County parks are open and Park Rangers will continue to patrol
For a complete list of essential Kern County services, visit the County website at: KernCounty.com
Updated information about the Coronavirus is available from the Kern County Public Health Services Department call center at 661-321-3000. The call center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to the changes in county services, some Kern Valley banks have temporarily shortened or staggered their hours in response to concerns over COVID-19.
Alta One Federal Credit Union in Lake Isabella is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Kernville branch remains unchanged Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wells Fargo is open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon
West America Bank has retained their regular hours of Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the drive-up is open from 8:30 to 5 p.m.
On the State level, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced the temporary closure of all field offices adding that they were canceling all of the scheduled appointments. On-line services will remain available on the DMV website. The DMV also announced its intent to reopen on April 2 with “virtual” services.
The DMV has postponed the deadline for “Real ID” cards to October 2021.
Last week, the U.S. Forest Service announced the closing of developed recreation facilities on all National Forests statewide. In response to statewide shelter-in-place orders issued by the Governor, all developed recreation facilities would close until at least April 30.
According to the news release, the general forest area, including extensive trail systems will remain open and available to the public and it is the intent of the Forest Service to maintain access to the extent practicable.
Residents can call the Kern River Ranger District for current information regarding local forest trails at 760-549-9533.
The Kern Valley Sun announced a temporary reduction in their office hours. The Sun’s hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additionally, the Sun is not accepting walk-ins at this time.