Further Deprivations & Adjustments With 3 County Deaths In Coronavirus Turmoil

The coronavirus crisis further intensified throughout San Bernardino County this week, a reflection of the general circumstance throughout the state and country.
As the number of reported/known cases of the malady in the United States rose to 83,545, surpassing the number of known or recognized cases in any other single country, including China, Iran and Italy where the disease has previously flourished, San Bernardino County as of late this afternoon had registered 64, as well as three deaths.
Comparatively, there were 3,006 cases in California, entailing 55 deaths so far. Nationally, there have been 1,201 deaths.
Those infected with the virus include an unidentified deputy with the sheriff’s department, an employee with the San Bernardino City Unified School District, an unidentified patient at Barstow Community Hospital, and Big Bear City Councilman Rick Herrick.
The three deaths within the county involving deceased individuals confirmed to have had the virus at the time of death were a 50-year-old man with underlying health conditions, a 42-year-old man with underlying health conditions, and an 89-year-old woman.
San Bernardino County residents, as those elsewhere, are dealing with, and generally appear to be complying with, the precautionary measures that have been put into place. Many of the public agencies in the county have shuttered their facilities, while most have kept skeleton crews in place. Access to many of those public agencies has been significantly attenuated, with telephonic dead-ends frustrating citizens seeking to reach staff members.
For the most part, San Bernardino County Courts have been closed out for the last week-and-a-half. On Monday, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye confirmed and extended that shuttering by issuing an order suspending all jury trials in California’s superior courts for 60 days. The order allowed courts to immediately adopt new rules to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cantil-Sakauye said her intent was to allow California courts to comply with the directives from public health officials to suppress the spread of the disease, including maintaining a 6-foot separation between people. There are questions, however, as to whether Cantil-Sakaye’s order can legally override a defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Under the U.S. Constitution, all citizens accused of a crime and subjected to a prosecution have a right to a speedy trial such that a government prosecutor may not delay the trial of a criminal suspect arbitrarily and indefinitely. This has come to be defined as within 60 days of the defendant’s arraignment. Under Cantil-Sakauye’s order, the courts are deemed to be on holiday during the closure, and those closed days are, under this interpretation, not counted toward the 60 day deadline. It is anticipated that a defendant will at some point contest that interpretation.
Governor Newsom also signed an executive order to halt transfers to state prison or juvenile facilities, and the state prison system has also initiated a survey of its population to ascertain which prisoners will be released if the governor signs a contemplated order to release so-called low-level offenders. Hundreds of inmates in jails throughout the state have been released in the last eight to ten days, and the release of thousands more are being considered. Individuals convicted of crimes who were formerly scheduled to be transported to state prisons are to remain at county facilities at least for the next 30 days.
To inquiries about whether these moves have resulted in an increase in criminal activity, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon indicated that a decrease in local arrests would indicate not. He said it was his hope “that reduction could be as a result of folks on the street not being involved in as many crimes. However, it could also be because deputy sheriffs and police officers that are dedicated to protecting the folks in our county are busy doing other things.”
McMahon on Wednesday said bookings into the county’s jails have “gone down 17-to-18 percent” over the last two weeks. Despite the prisoners eventually bound for state prison remaining incarcerated locally, McMahon said the number of inmates held in the county’s jails has diminished by roughly 700, from 6,200 to 5,500. When his deputies make misdemeanor arrests, McMahon said, suspects are cited but not booked into the jail.
Law enforcement officers, nonetheless, are taking very seriously a different category of crime that was not extant prior to the coronavirus crisis. Pursuant to Governor Newsom’s declaration of a state of emergency, statutes relating to price gouging statewide were actuated, prohibiting raising prices by more than 10 percent.
As panic buying of respiratory masks, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, hand soap, and paper towels ensued, Christopher Nasser and Lamar McDonald of Fontana and Jose Caretto of Rancho Cucamonga succeeded in securing a stash of those supplies. They were then selling them at well over twice the cost they had been available for on store shelves the first week of March. A detective with the Fontana Police Department monitoring social media came across marketing of the products at an inflated rate, did some further investigation and reported what was happening up the chain of command. Thereafter, officers with the Fontana Police Department arrested the 55-year-old Nasser at his home in the 7300 block of Cherry Avenue in Fontana; McDonald, 47, at his residence in the 14900 block of Summit Avenue in Fontana; and Carreto at a location in the 6200 block of Haven Avenue where he was rendezvousing with someone he thought was a customer.
In cities throughout San Bernardino County, in compliance with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order that all non-essential workers confine themselves to their homes and all non-essential public and private sector entities close, cities are continuing to hold public meetings but are paradoxically barring the public from attending. Cities where such meetings took place this week were Yucaipa, Upland, Twentynine Palms, Rialto, Needles, Grand Terrace, Chino Hills, in the towns of Yucca Valley and Apple Valley, and in the City of Redlands, which held a special meeting after its last regularly scheduled meeting of March was held last week.
In Ontario, City Hall is open to the public only by appointment.
Twentynine Palms City Manager Frank Luckino said a state of emergency in that city had been declared for two weeks running, and that the city council will consider renewing the declaration when the current declaration expires.
In accordance with a request/mandate from Governor Newsom, most cities have declared a moratorium on evictions.
Glendora Ridge Road, which is located within the Angeles National Forest and runs from Mount Baldy Village in San Bernardino County to Glendora in Los Angeles County, has been closed to motorists in compliance with the Los Angeles County ‘Safer at Home” coronoavirus-reduction order. The road remains open to hikers, bikers and equestrians.
San Bernardino County initiated a limited drive-thru coronavirus testing site at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino this morning. Testing was done solely on applicants for appointments who had been accepted, the county having turned away an undisclosed number of applicants for the tests. Officials said those appointments had been made using a prioritization schedule that used age and symptomatology as a criteria. Nevertheless, a number of applicants at or over the threshold age of 65 with fever, cough and fatigue were denied appointments. At press time today, some 380 individuals had been tested at the site.
On March 25, the City of Ontario filed a California Public Records Act request to obtain from San Bernardino County health officials locations where individuals with confirmed cases of coronavirus resided or were encountered. Today, county officials said they would comply with the request when the number of confirmed cases eclipses 100.
Across a wide cross section of the community, the coronavirus crisis has had a devastating economic impact, as many people are complying with the governor’s order and are no longer going to work, businesses are shuttered, and would-be customers are not turning up and forgoing the purchase of products, services, merchandise or meals. Businesses that cater to the government or function in coordination with its various divisions have lost business in significant measure or entirely. Conversely, other enterprises, ones offering goods or services that are in higher demand than usual, are thriving.
Among those are grocery stores, several of which have been able to offer their employees higher hourly wages or bonuses while they labor to keep up with the demand for food and household products. Another is ComAv, an aviation industry service provider located at Southern California Logistics Airport. The airport, located on the grounds of the former George Air Force Base which was shuttered by the Department of Defense and the Air Force in 1992 and which has since undergone a civilian-use conversion, leases over 100 acres of ground and hangar space to ComAv. Some of that space, under normal circumstances, is used to temporarily house aircraft that have been temporarily taken out of commission and are undergoing maintenance, servicing, retrofitting or avionics or communication systems upgrades, as many as 30 planes at a time. ComAv, which also employs San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe’s policy advisor, Dillon Lesovsky, is now making money hand over fist as several airlines, Delta and Southwest included, have grounded their planes and are storing them with ComAv. Reportedly, Com Av has a contract which will allow it to lease further space at the airport, giving it the capacity to store as many as 500 planes.
A further side-benefit of the crisis for Southern California residents is the drop in the price of gasoline. Whereas, in early January gasoline in some areas hovered at around $4 per gallon, in recent days in certain locations it has been available at prices as low as $2.50 per U.S. gallon.
-By Mark Gutglueck

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