BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – One of the biggest arguments for lifting stay-at-home orders is that social distancing is having unintended consequences.
Policy makers across the country cite concerns about possible increases in suicides, child cruelty and substance abuse.
That may be true but in Kern County, there’s little proof to support the worry.
“Everyone handles isolation differently,” said Louis Gill, CEO of the Alliance Against Family Violence. “Not everyone can handle that type of stress of being in the same place.”
Advocates worry changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic may worsen things for people already dealing with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, loneliness, and domestic violence.
“We are not addressing the negative effects to our community,” said Dave Noerr, Taft Mayor. “Whether it’s spousal abuse, child abuse, alcohol abuse, and all the negatives that go on with the pressure. Those things don’t make it into the daily graphs we look at.”
Leaders are worried that social isolation may be as dangerous as the coronavirus it’s designed to prevent.
“But if the prevention for Covid-19 is responsible for all those negatives, are we required to morally and ethically weigh those things for the people we represent?” said Mayor Noerr. “Absolutely without a doubt.”
That concern is not borne out by data.
Louis Gill, with the Alliance Against Family Violence, says the center has actually seen a 50 percent decrease in people seeking assistance.
Still, this may not be as good as it sounds.
“I’m fearful that individuals are not getting time by themselves to seek help,”said Gill.
At the county’s crisis hotline there was an 8 percent increase in calls since last month.
“A few more calls are coming in with people calling in wanting to discuss what’s going to happen with the coronavirus,” said Ana Olvera, administrator Kern Behavioral Health.
The county coroner reports fewer suicides since the stay at home order started there have been eight five fewer than the same period last year.
People struggling with substance abuse are also affected.
“When people are struggling with substance abuse it’s hard to reach out to others,” said Olvera “We recommend people stay busy, but right now you can’t really do that.”
According to Nielson, a market research firm, since stay-at-home orders went into effect alcohol sales went up 55 percent state-wide.
Still, the Bakersfield Police Department reports a dramatic drop in DUI arrests since the stay at home orders started.
From March 19 to April 19 389 DUIs were issued. A 49 percent decrease over the 789 citations issues last year during this time.