Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg downplayed a local emergency declaration he issued late Thursday evening in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, saying at a press conference Friday the city would largely remain open for business.
“It’s not something particularly exciting,” Clegg said of the declaration. “It’s a very routine action that we’re taking as a formality.”
The city announced Clegg's declaration at around 11 p.m. Thursday, following the governor’s order that all Californians should only venture outside under certain circumstances, like to perform essential jobs, buy groceries or to exercise.
Newsom’s order is meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus by limiting person-to-person interaction, but it left many business owners confused about whether they should shut down or stay open. On Friday, many businesses in Bakersfield could be seen operating as usual, possibly in violation of the new state directive.
Clegg said during the press conference local law enforcement would not be policing violations of the governor’s action.
“(We’re) hoping that everyone will do what’s right by the public good for their community,” he said. “The governor referenced social pressures, and encouraging people to follow these guidelines voluntarily because it is the right thing to do. The city is not in a position to begin doing enforcement of the stay-at-home order. Just as the governor stated, that’s largely going to be voluntary.”
Except in situations of egregious health and public safety concern, police will not step in.
He added the city would create a summary on its website, www.bakersfieldcity.us/covid19, that could help identify which businesses the state considers essential, and which ones should temporarily close. The summary, however, was not immediately available.
The state has created its own website designed to answer questions Californians might have about the governor’s order. The website is https://covid19.ca.gov/
On Friday, it remained unclear how much would change in local government as a result of the new emergency declaration. The city had already been the subject of Kern County’s emergency order issued on Monday, and had taken several measures to limit staffing and cancel certain functions, like large activities in local parks, to combat coronavirus.
“This stay home order from the governor doesn’t really change to a large degree the activities that we already have been doing for several weeks to make sure that we do slow down the spread of the coronavirus,” Clegg said. “This is a big deal. We do need to take precautions, but we don’t need to panic.”
While city staff will be limited to only those essential for city business, most city functions would continue, albeit at a slower pace. Some city employees will be allowed to work from home, and others will be placed on administrative leave. On Friday, exact figures for city staffing levels were not available.
Many city offices will remain open throughout the local emergency. However, the city plans to put into place social distancing procedures to protect the staff from coronavirus.
Clegg urged the public to conduct business through the internet or over the phone. In a news release, the city urged those who could wait to do so.
The declaration has an indefinite length, and must be ratified by the City Council, which is next scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
City services that will not be impacted include:
- The Wednesday City Council meeting is planned to take place as originally scheduled with an abbreviated agenda.
- Police response
- Fire response
- Solid Waste
- Rapid Response Teams
- Fleet support to health and safety services
- Technology support to health and safety services