City Manager: Bakersfield "not in a position" to enforce stay home order

Posted at 8:10 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 23:22:56-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Thursday night California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide lockdown in response to the spread of the coronavirus within the state.

“We direct a statewide order for people to stay at home. That directive goes into effect this evening,” said Newsom. “We are confident that the people of California will abide by it.”

Shortly after that, the City of Bakersfield declared a local emergency, which would allow the city to get funding to help fight the virus.

However, Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg explained Friday that regardless of the executive order issued by the Governor not much was going to change in in the city.

"I think that this 'stay home order' doesn't really change the activities that we have been doing for several weeks to help make sure that we do slow down the spread," Clegg said.

Newsom said even though federal and city governments have the right to enforce the order on residents, it was essentially a social contract for now.

"Enforcement comes in many shapes of a regulatory framework. You have licensing frameworks but I don't believe the people need to be told through law enforcement that it's important to self-isolate," said Newsom.

Clegg said the city isn't prepared to enforce the Governor's message to stay home. Despite concerns for further community spread, the Bakersfield Police Department told 23ABC News as of now they will not be arresting non-essential business owners who are remaining open or people who are not practicing social distancing.

"The city is not in a position to begin doing enforcement of the stay at home order," added Clegg. "Our police will focus first on priority calls."

BPD also released a statement saying in part: "We want our officers to be good examples for safety in our community, so expect to see them practicing social distance. Please don’t be offended if they take precautions, like asking you to meet them outside when you call, or even wearing gloves during your encounter. For your safety and ours, we have made as many of our services as possible available online or over the phone. We are making these adjustments so we can continue to be here for you, today and long after COVID-19 is a thing of the past. they will now be practicing social distancing, wearing gloves and having residents meet them outside during priority calls."

Clegg said Bakersfield is not under a shelter in place order as of now, but one of the purposes for declaring a local emergency in Bakersfield was to ensure the city could apply for funding reimbursement from the federal government.

"There are $500 million in FEMA funds that are going to be available for reimbursement for expense accord responding to the COVID-19."

23ABC reached out to the Governor's office about the executive order and officials forwarded our inquiry to the California Department of Public Health. In response, the state health department said that as of now they are waiting on additional guidance from the Governor's office pertaining to city enforcement.