Reader: I am so tired of being lied to by all the media and now our very own newspaper. I challenge The Bakersfield Californian to physically go to each and every hospital in Kern County and base your story on how empty they really are as my wife and I did. Not only were they a ghost town, no one even mentioned being tested for COVID. So before you report any more false news, do some actual physical research, not just a phone call.

— Thank you, respectfully, Robert Fallo

Peterson: Sorry, Robert, I have no evidence to show we're lying to you.

Do we rely on hospitals and health care providers to provide honest information to us about their situations because we can't just waltz through their facilities at whim during this coronavirus pandemic? Yes.

Do we have reason to disbelieve the circumstances? No. (Trust me, if and when we do, we will ask a heck of a lot more questions and seek more evidence.)

I wonder, Robert, if you are saying you personally toured every unit in every hospital in Kern County. I don't know if you did, so I won't judge that. I do know that when a family member of mine needed to be in a hospital elsewhere in California for a non-COVID-19 matter, I absolutely could not step one foot past the door, not even into a lobby. In fact, I had to go to a tent outside the hospital to pick up an item that had been misplaced during her stay when she was discharged.

But to your point: There could be areas of hospitals that aren't as busy as people put off elective procedures. Also, several administrators (locally and across the country) have commented that even with highly skilled, qualified, compassionate and licensed health care providers, not everyone has every skill and experience to work in every area of a hospital. That diabetes educator who is an astoundingly awesome registered nurse may not be the same person with the skills and experience to work in an intensive care unit.

Earlier this week, Dignity Health Chief Nursing Officer Terri Church, who oversees nursing staff at the Mercy and Memorial hospitals, told reporter Stacey Shepard that patients are arriving sicker than they were over the summer and more are being admitted directly into the ICU this time rather than a regular hospital floor. ("Bakersfield hospitals mount intense effort to care for influx of patients," Dec. 16).

Translation: You may not have seen these people, Robert.

In that same story, Bruce Peters, CEO of the two Mercy hospitals in Bakersfield, told Shepard that people ask him why staff who perform elective surgeries can’t be moved around to help out the impacted ICUs. He said nurses who work in outpatient surgery aren’t necessarily able to do what an ICU nurse does.

"They simply are not trained and it’s not safe ...," he said.

We're doing the best research we can, Robert.

•••

Reader: Christine, this is in rebuttal to Jerry Todd, who (still) doubts the coronavirus is serious and (thinks) the numbers are inaccurate. He now considers himself an expert because he was in the hospital. I wonder:

1) Did it ever occur to him, that COVID patients are segregated from other patients for everyone's safety? And for that reason he would have no idea what the case load is for the COVID units.

2) Did it ever occur to him that the flu numbers are down this year BECAUSE the precautions being taken to slow the spread of COVID also slow the spread of the flu?

Three of my friends have lost family members to COVID. Two of those friends lost multiple family members.

Just because it hasn't touched his life, or the life of those he loves, doesn't mean it isn't real or isn't serious.

Thank you, Christine, for continuing to report the facts of this situation, in spite of those who insist it's being overblown or doesn't exist.

— Respectfully, Nancy Rosengren, Bakersfield

Peterson: Thank you, Nancy, for your note. Your two points are ones I tried to address in last week's Sound Off.

I'm struck by the details you shared of friends who have lost family members to COVID-19. There's just so much pain people are enduring.

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.