Police dept. enforces gov’s closure order

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Police dept. enforces gov’s closure orderAs businesses enter the fifth week of closures to help contain COVID-19 outbreaks, Ridgecrest Police Department is following up on complaints to the Kern County Public Health Department of violations to the mandate.

On March 20, Gov. Gavin Newsom directed Californians to stay at home to reduce the spread of infection. The state released a list of guidelines that authorized which “essential” operations would be allowed to stay open.

Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said that his department would respond to an obvious deviation of that directive, but acknowledged most of their calls for enforcement were triggered by citizen complaints.

At press time, the Moose Lodge, Smoke Cave, Tobacco Center, American Legion, Hanh’s Hair Design and Good Time Grooming had all been asked to cease operations.

“We know that everyone is struggling right now. We don’t want to cite anyone,” said McLaughlin. “We don’t want to put undue hardship on anyone.

If someone is operating illegally, the protocol is to request that business owner to honor the governor’s order, he said.

He said that in one case they caught a proprietor sneaking customers in the back door. “We asked them to comply, and they did. So far we have only given out warnings.”

Subsequent violations can be followed-up with a fine, or turned over to the county to have business licenses revoked.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, and I don’t think it will. I believe the vast majority of people in our community are doing their best to stay home and maintain social distance. Our numbers reflect that.”

At press time, only five positive cases of coronavirus have been reported by Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.

“You go out in town and you see people are wearing masks. Businesses are enforcing distance, but even individuals are doing that on their own. Hopefully that continues, and our case numbers stay low because of it.”

Pictured: A sign on one of the closed businesses.

Story First Published: 2020-04-24