Martha Rodarte says she has spent about $1,000 in recent days to prepare for the possibility that the new coronavirus keeps her at home. On Thursday afternoon she spent more than $350 on canned goods and juice for her family. "Above all, we've got to be prepared," the Bakersfield resident said.

Right now you might be wondering: Are we going to be OK? 

Though Kern County has no positive coronavirus cases yet, the concern, some might say panic, over the pandemic's spread is palpable.

There were almost 50 people lined up outside Winco on Coffee Road around mid-day Friday. An employee at the door was allowing in groups of three or four people at a time.

On the front doors hung signs saying customers were limited to one package of paper towels and one package of toilet paper, and only one multipack of bottled water per household. Another sign said the 24-hour store would now close from midnight to 5 a.m. so shelves could be restocked, effective through March 20.

A man in line yelled out to the doorman, saying he was only there for baby wipes. Did they have any in stock? 

A few moments later, the answer came: No baby wipes. And no more toilet paper. 

"Anybody selling their place in line yet?" a customer asked as he exited the store.

With talk of closing schools, working from home and the cancellation of nearly all events in the next few weeks, coronavirus is causing some very real and many anticipated disruptions to daily life. Jokes about toilet paper and social distancing aside, the pandemic is having real effects on the collective psyche.

"I think as we hear of more events being canceled and people in the media being affected by coronavirus ... hearing those things open the doors to allow people to personalize things a little more. If it happened to Tom Hanks, it could happen to me," said Tonya Mann, crisis administrator for Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.

Stockpiling food and paper products may seem irrational to some, but thinking ahead isn't completely unreasonable, Mann said.

"I think it's a basic survival technique to be prepared and make sure that people and their families are cared for," she said. "It's a very natural, basic instinct."

Put another way: Anxiety is a completely normal response to all of this. And doing something like buying supplies can provide people a sense of control in a situation full of uncertainty and lack of control.

Aggravating all of this and driving normal, even healthy levels of anxiety into extreme mode is the social media element — the non-stop photos of empty shelves, reports on increasing numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths, images of barricaded cities around the globe and an endless stream of texts and alerts about the latest cancellations and government pronouncements.

"People have access to information — correct or incorrect — right at their fingertips," said Michelyn Devine, a licensed clinical psychologist with Kaiser Permanente in Bakersfield. 

If they're lucky, some might come across a funny joke or meme on social media about the situation, or laugh with friends and family about what's happening, to add a little levity to all the uncertainty and edginess. That can be a good thing, Devine said. 

"It's an attempt to cope and not panic. And some of it's appropriate because life is funny in a lot of ways," she said.  

One group Devine is concerned about, however, is young people. Sporting events, musical productions and other extra-curriculars have been canceled for the foreseeable future, all things that provide students with an identity and a sense of accomplishment. If the virus continues its spread, teenagers could see important events like graduation and prom canceled. Athletes may miss opportunities to get recruited for scholarships. 

"I worry if that will turn into depression or anger or resentment," she said. "Hopefully we have a lot of resilient kids who will take that in stride."

The possible economic fallout is another dimension of the crisis that could cause widespread distress, even as lawmakers rush to approve financial relief and sick time for those who don't have it. 

"I am a travel agent on a sinking ship...," wrote Sandy Giurlani on The Californian's Facebook page in response to a post about coronavirus. "The only work I have done for the past (two) weeks are cancellations and the only word I hear when my phone rings is coronavirus. I am emotionally wiped out."

As of Friday, Kern County Public Health Department reported that 10 people were being monitored in Kern for the virus. Outside of the Bay Area and Southern California, a small number of cases have been reported in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties. Kern County public health officials provide daily updates on the local situation and respond to questions from the public, while also providing guidance to schools and other community groups.

The message so far has been that the risk to the local community is low.

"If we get a case, it won't be shocking," said Michelle Corson, a spokeswoman for the county public health department. "But even one positive test doesn't mean sustained community spread."

Whether the community at large will feel the same way is anybody's guess.

Stacey Shepard can be reached at 661-395-7417.

(13) comments


Expect in 4 weeks to be in total lockdown. Dr. Fausi said this morning on CNN that we could see millions die. Dr. Fausi btw is the White House adviser, he has no affiliation to CNN.


Here are a lost of countries that have no known cases,So what countries, as of Friday afternoon, have not as yet declared any cases?

Here are the countries and their population:

Angola 32,866,272

Antigua and Barbuda 97,929

Bahamas 393,244

Barbados 287,375

Belize 397,628

Benin 12,123,200

Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,280,819

Botswana 2,351,627

Burundi 11,890,784

Côte d'Ivoire 26,378,274

Cabo Verde 555,987

Central African Republic 4,829,767

Chad 16,425,864

Comoros 869,601

Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) 5,518,087

Djibouti 988,000

Dominica 71,986

El Salvador 6,486,205

Equatorial Guinea 1,402,985

Eritrea 3,546,421

Eswatini (fmr. "Swaziland") 1,160,164

Ethiopia 114,963,588

Fiji 896,445

Gabon 2,225,734

Gambia 2,416,668

Ghana 31,072,940

Grenada 112,523

Guatemala 17,915,568

Guinea 13,132,795

Guinea-Bissau 1,968,001

Haiti 11,402,528

Kazakhstan 18,776,707

Kiribati 119,449

Kyrgyzstan 6,524,195

Laos 7,275,560

Lesotho 2,142,249

Liberia 5,057,681

Libya 6,871,292

Madagascar 27,691,018

Malawi 19,129,952

Mali 20,250,833

Marshall Islands 59,190

Mauritania 4,649,658

Mauritius 1,271,768

Micronesia 115,023

Montenegro 628,066

Mozambique 31,255,435

Myanmar (formerly Burma) 54,409,800

Namibia 2,540,905

Nauru 10,824

Nicaragua 6,624,554

Niger 24,206,644

North Korea 25,778,816

Palau 18,094

Papua New Guinea 8,947,024

Rwanda 12,952,218

Saint Kitts and Nevis 53,199

Saint Lucia 183,627

Samoa 198,414

Sao Tome and Principe 219,159

Seychelles 98,347

Sierra Leone 7,976,983

Solomon Islands 686,884

Somalia 15,893,222

South Sudan 11,193,725

Suriname 586,632

Syria 17,500,658

Tajikistan 9,537,645

Tanzania 59,734,218

Timor-Leste 1,318,445

Tonga 105,695

Trinidad and Tobago 1,399,488

Turkmenistan 6,031,200

Tuvalu 11,792

Uganda 45,741,007

Uzbekistan 33,469,203

Vanuatu 307,145

Yemen 29,825,964

Zambia 18,383,955

Zimbabwe 14,862,924


Maybe these countries have POS leaders like us and have no capacity to test.


Look at China. Korea. Italy. We are NOT overreacting. COVID 19 doesn't care if you think you live in the greatest country in the world. It's a virus. You cant spin it. Look at the graphs showing infection. In 10 days, we will be in deep sh**. We are in the eye of the hurricane.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Really Dweeb?

COVID-19 will cause our water systems to be inoperable/unsafe?

COVID-19 will cause explosive diarrhea that will result in you using one pack per day of toilet paper?

I think we can agree the TP and bottled water hoarders ARE overreacting.

Most of us should be ready for an earthquake, and if you are, you're already prepared. If not, I guess you can wait in a two hour line at Costco while I drive by laughing at you...

She Dee

I think that going into a crowded store for anything is asking to be exposed to some type of disease! If I run out of TP, I have a lot of old rags to use & toss when I'm done with 'em!


Maxine says: "Until I hear from someone in authority that wrapping yourself in toilet paper will keep you from getting Coronavirus, I think we can leave some on the store shelves.


Well ‘deep, I have to say thank you to you and the other melodramatic lifers. My Procter and Gamble stock is way up right now. Keep it up my fine socialist acquaintance.


Well, ALL your other stocks are in the toilet, right? So the entire field of science is wrong... and your country bumpkin simpleton education is right? Ummm what are the odds of THAT being true? A zillion zillion zillion to infinity to one. So we’ve irrefutably established your brain is pea-sized. So keep ranting. But please practice safe hygiene and social distancing. It’s unconscionable to get others sick regardless of how rancid your hubris is.


LOL. The former firefighter who graduated from MIT put two or more coherent sentences together for once. Obviously they got your meds right this time, so good for you sir. What exactly did I say the entire field science was wrong about? Having said that, I did not know the entire field of science was involved in educating the world on COVID-19, so thank you for enlightening me. What would we ever do without Mrknowitall...

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Not all stocks are in the toilet sir- I'd think someone with an MIT education would realize that...


All the people that are cut throat and gossip should go first, who needs you and your small town garbage.


I find the response to the virus very ironic.

"Everyone should be able to be tested at no charge."

Anyone who loses pay should be reimbursed. Payroll tax cuts. FEMA should release its 50 billion dollar fund to help the states.

"20 million children if kept home from school will miss out on their only good meal of the day, we have to find a way to feed them."

I thought America wasn't ready for "Democratic Socialism."It's very ironic that in a time of crisis, Democratic Socialism seems to be the answer to fighting the crisis.

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