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After 3 Deaths, Merced County Toughens COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 4 years ago on
April 9, 2020

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Officials said Wednesday night that Merced County’s positive cases have climbed to 40 and three people have died because of COVID-19.

There were two deaths Wednesday, a man and a woman. Both were more than 65 years old.

“If you heed the directives of public health officials, then my deputies won’t be forced to take enforcement actions. Risking a criminal record because of mere disregard to health and safety is reckless, careless, and simply not worth it. This pandemic will end sooner if we all do our part.” — Merced County Sheriff-Coroner Vern Warnke

That prompted Merced County Health Officer Dr. Ken Bird to beef up the stay-at-home order.

Bird said in a news release that because of the county’s dearth of hospital beds and advanced healthcare equipment, “it is absolutely essential that mitigation activities such as social distancing, staying at home, and severe reduction of gatherings be in place” to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

“It is even more critical that each of us comply with these efforts to the fullest extent possible in order to avoid unnecessary deaths from both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related causes.” Bird said.

Bird also said that complying with the order was “imperative” to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmissions and deaths.

The New Order

Bird’s new order directs all county residents to stay at home unless they are providing or receiving essential services. In addition, it:

The Order:

  • Directs all businesses and governmental agencies to cease non-essential operations at physical locations in the county;
  • Prohibits all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals (including church and funeral services);
  • Orders cessation of all non-essential travel;
  • Restricts access to certain recreation areas (including parks and golf courses).

Failure to comply is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, county jail sentencing, or both.

[covid-19-tracker]

Sheriff Warnke: Pandemic Will End Sooner With Compliance

“People are dying in our community — please take all health directives seriously,” said Merced County Sheriff-Coroner Vern Warnke. “If you heed the directives of public health officials, then my deputies won’t be forced to take enforcement actions. Risking a criminal record because of mere disregard to health and safety is reckless, careless, and simply not worth it. This pandemic will end sooner if we all do our part.”

For general information pertaining to COVID-19, visit the Merced County Department of Public Health’s website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the informational line at 209 381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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