BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Here in Kern County, city officials are seeing a growing number of people gathering at Martin Luther King Jr. park, and not following social distancing guidelines. Now, they've asked community leaders to help with changes, but some say it may not be enough.
"It's not an authority thing, it's a safety thing. We want to see these people next week, next month, next year. Instead of seeing them laying in a coffin somewhere," Nick Hill, the President of the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce said.
Hill, along with other community leaders came out to Martin Luther King, Jr. park on Wednesday evening to speak with people gathering at the park.
According to Dr. Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "When you look at the predisposing conditions that lead to a bad outcome with the coronavirus, the things that get people to ICU's, that require intubation and often lead to death, they are just those comorbidities that are unfortunately disproportionally prevalent in the African-American population."
According to the Kern County Public Health's COVID-19 tracker, East Bakersfield a predominately ethnic community is in the lead with the most confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus in the county.
With the hopes of providing access to those who need testing, and limit the challenge of traveling outside of their area, Leticia Perez who represents the 5th district and is the Chairwoman on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, announced today that in a partnership with Governor Newsom, free testing will be available for residents in East Bakersfield.
"As you see stories across the country, people of color, African Americans, Latinos, Filipinos, people of color in particular, especially in at-risk communities that are low resourced, we know are disproportionately impacted and we know they are disproportionately not being tested," Perez said.
Local community leaders say more signage could be added, something which Supervisor Perez agrees with. "Certainly we can have more signage across the entire County. and folks should, of course, pay attention and he those be safe," Supervisor Perez said.
"We get to the park and we realize that, you know, the playground is not even roped off in the community where I live, the playground is marked off. That's important. How about putting some signs and marking where the social distance is, let's all work together and help this community be safe," Arleana Waller, the CEO of ShePOWER Global said.
However, community leaders tell 23ABC they feel more still needs to be done for the communities of color within Kern County.
"I'm excited that there is one in the fifth district period that's important cause Brown and black both are suffering highly in this coven and the disparities that we deal with. But when we look at the Southeast area, which is the area we're here speaking on behalf of, we do not have a free test and center out in this area. We do not have an urgent care. Transportation is an issue. A grocery store is an issue," Waller said.
The first free testing center in the Central Valley is expected to open next week. The center is located at the Richard Prado Senior Center in East Bakersfield.