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SOUND OFF: The blooms are beautiful, but not an invitation to trespass

Reader: I am saddened that The Californian ran a photo essay encouraging people to trespass on private property to take photographs of themselves among the trees ("Photo gallery: Beautiful weather brings people out to local almond bloom," Feb. 26). Earlier The Californian ran a piece on thefts of bee hives from orchards ("Apirary industry issues tips for taking the sting out of bee theft," Feb. 15) but now the paper prints photos and the location of the private property on which the trespassers took the photos.

We drove past that orchard Sunday to see the road lined with vehicles and dozens of people in the orchard, trampling the carefully groomed land, probably breaking the irrigation systems and doing damage to the trees and hives. There are dangers from bee stings or tripping over the irrigation systems and I’m sure that the property owner didn’t give permission for so many people to come onto the property. The Californian should be encouraging respect for private property, not encouraging trespassing.

California penal code section 602 provides for a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail for trespassing on private property. Please respect the law and private property rights by encouraging the public to stay off private land unless given permission to enter.

— Elaine Fleeman

Peterson: Thank you for your note, Elaine.

The Californian is not encouraging people to trespass. We are documenting what is happening in our community. And I really don't think we're "revealing" to anyone where almond orchards are located — take a drive in agricultural areas and you'll see them.

And while you mentioned two ways we covered the almond bloom, there was a third: An entire story with this headline: "Tourists flock to almond bloom, sometimes over growers' objections," which published Feb. 20.

In that story's accompanying information box, business editor John Cox wrote: "Hazards such as bees, pesticides and ongoing farming operations make it inadvisable for members of the public to walk onto a private almond orchard. But providing visitors stay in their cars, a gorgeous view is in store as this year's almond bloom nears."

Those same cautions are laid out in the story, which included growers' concerns and even information about a lawsuit that ensued when someone went in a vineyard and claimed an injury.

I drove by an almond orchard this week on my way from an appointment to the office — not intending to go see the blooms, just taking the most direct route — and there were lots of cars lined up along the road. Most concerning to me was the children who appeared to be less than perfectly attended as the adults looked at the blooms.

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Reader: In the Feb. 27 article, "Latinos lag behind in effort to distribute vaccines" there is something off about the data: 32.7 percent white; 23.7 percent Latinos; 14.9 percent multiracial; 21.5 percent unknown/other; 4.4 percent Asian Americans; 0.6 percent American Indian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

And no Black people on this list. If no Black people have gotten the vaccine at all that needs to be a story! Or is the 2.2 percent difference between 100 percent and the total made up of Black people? How can you print this without including Black people? Wouldn't you doubt the veracity of this information if no Black statistics are reported?

Absolutely, I agree with the point that more Latinos need access to vaccines. I just like good data.

Still, it seems dubious that 14.9 percent are multiracial in these Kern County statistics, especially when multiracial is not included in the comparative census information. Are a lot of Latinos checking multiracial or other and wouldn't that substantially change the number of Latinos reported vaccinated?

— Sincerely, Alison Arnold

Peterson: Thank you for your letter, Alison, which prompted us to correct and update the story. This was our error in typing the numbers, not an error on the part of the data source.

According to state data as of the publication of that story, 2.2 percent of coronavirus vaccines in Kern County have been given to people who identified themselves as Black.

The most recent Census data, which is based on American Community Survey estimates from 2019, shows Black people make up 5.2 percent of the county's population. (We all await the results of the 2020 Census — information delayed by, you guessed it, data collection delays during the coronavirus pandemic — which are official counts, not estimates.)

As far as your question on the multiracial designation, it is my understanding that individuals are self-identifying their race. For example, on the MyTurn.ca.gov website where you check your eligibility for a vaccine and register to be notified when it's your turn, there are questions about race.

It says: "Race: This question helps us better understand who we are reaching. Your answer does not affect your eligibility to receive the vaccine in any way." The choices available from a pull-down menu are American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian Indian; Black or African American; Chamorro; Chinese; Filipino; Korea (it actually says Korea, not Korean); Native Hawaiian; Samoan; Vietnamese; White; Other Asian; Other Pacific Islander; Other Race; Prefer Not to Say.

A second question asks about Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, again noting that an answer does not affect eligibility for the vaccine. The choices there are Cuban; Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin; Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Not of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin; Puerto Rican; Other; and Prefer Not to Say.

Those two questions allow for documenting many more possibilities. And as we've previously reported, there are a lot of "unknowns" when it comes to race and ethnicity in terms of who has tested positive for coronavirus in Kern County. As of Friday morning, the Kern County Public Health Services COVID-19 dashboard said 27.8 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases in Kern were of an "unknown" race. That's a lot of people!

•••

Reader: Kudos, Christine Peterson, for your fair, reasoned and logical responses in Sound Off to comments critical of The Californian’s news decisions.

You clearly have not only a strong spine, but a clear, strong voice.

Keep up the great work!

— Mike Jenner, Journalism Professions faculty chair, Missouri School of Journalism, University of Missouri

Executive Editor Christine Peterson answers your questions and takes your complaints about The Californian’s news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Please include your name and phone number.