NewsCovering Kern County


Hindsight is 2020: A look back at the year's biggest stories

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Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 20:44:10-05

(KERO) — For many, 2020 has been a challenging year. Through a global pandemic, historic social injustice protests, and a wild election season, here’s a look back at what made this year so memorable.

You might think it’s hard to remember some of the positive moments this year. A lot of negative news happened. It wasn’t even halfway through March and the United States and Iran had been pushed to the brink of war.

“If you kill an American, we will respond directly, and we did. We are safer for it,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among nine killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, leaving Bakersfield residents shocked. 23ABC caught up with Sean McConn, who was honoring the Lakers superstar with a tattoo.

“He seemed larger than life. And I think that’s why a lot of people are really sad, hurt, surprised you know.”

President Donald Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial, on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election. A couple weeks after, the president made a trip to Bakersfield’s Meadows Field Airport for a speech talking about California water for farmers.

“We need water in this state and you have so much water you don’t know what to do with it,” said President Trump.

That would be one of the last large-crowd events to be seen in Bakersfield before a statewide stay-at-home order would be implemented, closing businesses and leaving many to stay home as more was learned about the coronavirus.

Ten days later the first local death would be announced. "Unprecedented" seems to be the only word that can describe what happened this spring. Events and sports were cancelled, businesses empty, people uncertain as the virus spread around the county, and the country. But amid unprecedented times, came some unprecedented generosity in the community.

That’s where Bakersfield resident Cathleen Colbert came in, traveling and shopping on her own dime, spending thousands, picking up essential items for those who weren't able to shop at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Forty bucks and that’s lunch for five families,” said Colbert.

Colbert wasn’t the only one with shopping on the mind. Mila Gonzalez found herself unable to shop at her favorite stores: Target and Starbucks. So her parents painted, printed, and built miniature stores in their home.

“It may seem a little bit extra, but for me at the end of the day, watching them play and enjoy it, and us knowing that we put it together as a family means everything to me,” said her father Diego Gonzalez.

When 23ABC caught up with Mila in April, she was the employee of the month, and the shops even came complete with genuine Starbucks aprons and a Target name tag.

Later that month Bakersfield native Jordan Love was selected 26th overall in the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers.

Many Kern business owners, feeling exhausted and frustrated by the state’s economic restrictions, came up with ways to try to stay afloat. Many restaurants moved outdoors. The owner of Kern County Fight Club took the boxing gym to his backyard. And the owner of the Fox Theater rented out their famous marquee to anyone who wanted to write messages on it.

It was around late April when local Accelerated Urgent Care doctors went viral for saying this: “Do we need to still shelter in place? Our answer is emphatically no,” said Dr. Dan Erickson.

In May, another curveball. It was on May 25th that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, sparking protests around the world, including outside the Bakersfield Police Department headquarters. Robert Forbes was killed after being struck by a car while protesting on California Avenue. And there were a couple of other close calls with vehicles as well.

But the weeks and months following the protests saw some positive change and conversations regarding social injustice in Kern County. Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the protests led his office to form an advisory council which will consist of about 20 local, diverse, leaders and organizations. This summer he told 23ABC about a conversation he had with local black leaders: “We went in to how it feels to be an African-American being raised in a community that they believe is somewhat racist. And so I can’t get there because I’m white.”

The sheriff’s office and Bakersfield Police Department suspended the use of a carotid artery control hold following Floyd’s death.

23ABC’s Kari Osep brought together a diverse group of Kern County coaches to have a raw and open dialogue on the impacts of race on them, their teams, and their community.

“It’s unfortunate because the current events in the United States have forced us to be able to really begin to see that, yeah, we really do have an issue here,” said Wesley Davis III, the Foothill High School basketball coach.

In July, another sad story as an Inglewood man was arrested in the death of 13-year-old Bakersfield resident Patricia Allatorre. A vigil painted in her honor downtown.

As summer came to an end, on September 16th, convicted killer and former elementary school principal Leslie Chance was sentenced to 50 years to life for the shooting death of her husband in 2013.

Plus a historic wildfire season turned skies gray and orange leaving poor air quality for months across the West Coast.

“So that northerly flow is picking up smoke from Washington, Oregon, Northern California wildfires and pushing all down over our heads,” said 23ABC's Chief Meteorologist Elaina Rusk on September 11th.

Meanwhile, the state’s economic guidelines were still making it hard for small businesses to keep afloat, especially with hot and smoky conditions making outdoor service a struggle. One local leader making it clear he understood those frustrations.

“We’re demanding that you not continue to make this situation any harder on our business community and on our kids than it already is,” said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

Many businesses in town chose to defy orders set by the state because they said another shutdown would prove fatal for their business.

Election Day came and went, with Kern County voting 53 percent in favor of President Trump, 43 percent for President-elect Joe Biden. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy retained his seat in the 23rd District, and Representative T.J. Cox was ousted by Republican challenger David Valadao.

Although there is no end in sight to the pandemic or the damage it has done to countless families and businesses one glimmer of hope is shining through at the end of the year.

“I am blessed! Blessed to be the first registered nurse here in Kern County to be vaccinated,” proclaimed Jacqueline Laws.

Vaccinations began rolling out in December, the first batch going to those on the front line of the COVID fight: health care professionals. Laws, a clinical director at Kern Medical, was the first to receive it in the county. And other medical professionals told 23ABC that the vaccine is hugely welcomed after what they describe as an exhausting nine months of pandemic care.

“It helps, tremendously so," said Dr. Ronald Reynoso, chief medical officer at Adventist Health. "We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, which is good. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re hopeful.”

23ABC is always looking to tell stories about how Kern County is rebounding from the pandemic. If you have an idea you want to share with us, send us a message at