By Ed Martin, Editor
The Lemoore Volunteer Fire Department Association held a dinner event Saturday night at the Lemoore Civic Auditorium just prior to the governor's orders closing some indoor events.
The Lemoore Volunteer Fire Department Association held a dinner event Saturday night at the Lemoore Civic Auditorium just prior to the governor's orders closing some indoor events.

Kings County and Lemoore are shutting down indoor gatherings and businesses again. Governor Gavin Newsom, reacting to the spreading coronavirus on July 1, shut down at least 19 California counties on the County Monitoring List, a lineup that included Kings County.

California’s Department of Public Health reported July 1 that the state has experienced a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Officials report that there were 232,657 total COVID-19 cases reported and 6,090 fatalities in the state. The most significant number of confirmed cases were in the 18-49 age group at 133,458 cases.

Wednesday’s latest guidance from the governor’s office applies to the following sectors: indoor dine-in restaurants, indoor wineries, and tasting rooms, indoor family entertainment centers, indoor movie theaters, indoor zoos and museums, and indoor cardrooms. Restaurants may still offer outdoor and take-out dining. More specifically, his guidance is meant to close indoor operations for "certain sectors which promote the mixing of populations beyond households and make adherence to physical distancing and wearing face coverings difficult."

The mandate will remain in effect for at least three weeks.

The Kings County Department of Public Health followed up the state’s guidelines with its county-wide order on Thursday, July 2, when the county’s health officer, Dr. Milton R. Teske, ordered the closure of brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs, and other modifications until further notice.

Included in the mandate are civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violation per day.

“Infection of vulnerable populations in these settings can be catastrophic, both in terms of high rates of morbidity and mortality of individual residents, as well as thorough the high demand such infections place on the hospital delivery system,” stated Teske in his official order.

The coronavirus has found its way to Lemoore. City officials told The Leader that one of its city employees tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Three others are in quarantine too, not because they have it but because a relative may have tested positive.

Lemoore’s Volunteer Fire Department’s association may have barely beaten Newsom to the punch. On Saturday, the local volunteers held their annual “Ladies Night” in the Lemoore Civic Auditorium. This public gathering was nearly canceled the day before by city officials but was eventually allowed to happen.

It was in March that the California Department of Public Health provided guidance forbidding large gatherings, something similar to the Lemoore Fire Department’s Saturday event. Gatherings may also include concerts, conferences, professional college and school sporting events, gyms, health clubs, and theaters, according to the state’s guidelines.

The coronavirus may have affected the fire department association’s turnout. Lemoore’s fire chief, Bruce German, said that of 100 expected attendees who sent in their RSVP, only 66 showed up for the annual event. “We chose to go with it,” said German, who told The Leader they had masks and cleaning supplies available.

The annual event honors the spouses of Lemoore’s volunteers, who often cope as their unpaid firemen respond to fire and medical events almost daily.

Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson said that upon reflection, he probably should have shut down the fire department’s event. He initially thought the event was slated for Friday night and did not want to cancel it on such short notice.

It was at about 2:30 in the afternoon (Friday)  when Olson was asked about continuing with the fire department’s event.  “I thought it (the event) was that night (Friday, June 26), so I thought they were starting in three hours.”

Other organizations were told they would not be allowed to use the civic auditorium, including a local service club and a Hanford organization.

The battle against the coronavirus continues in California as state officials grapple with COVID-19’s reemergence.

“California is seeing the virus spreading at alarming rates in many parts of the state, and we are taking immediate action to slow the spread of the virus in those areas,” said Newsom. “We bent the curve in the state of California once, and we will bend the curve again. But we’re going to have to be tougher, and that’s why we are taking this action today.”

The statistics speak for themselves. Total California cases on June 1 increased to 222,917, with 6,367 cases reported that day. Since the pandemic began, the state has suffered 5,980 fatalities.

On June 30, Kings County health officials reported the county’s 30th death from the coronavirus and confirmed 23 additional cases. Since the pandemic began, Kings County has experienced 2,417 cases. Many remain in quarantine, while 1,492 have recovered.

Community spread of COVID-19 recently has been a concern across the state and, in particular, those counties on the County Monitoring List, including Kings County. Today’s order applies to counties that have been on the list for three or more consecutive days. The 19 counties represent about 72 percent of California’s population.

Impacted Counties as of July 1, 2020

Newsom also said that in anticipation of the 4th of July weekend, the state is recommending that counties with mandatory closures cancel firework shows and reminds all Californians that they should not gather with people they do not live with and avoid crowds.

He added that all state beaches in Southern California and the Bay Area would be closed for the upcoming weekend.