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Authorities Looking for Suspect on the Loose

On August 24 shortly after 2:00pm Inyo County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the area just north of Pearsonville on Highway 395, regarding a report of a man brandishing a firearm. The reporting party indicated that a white male wearing a straw hat, light colored flannel long sleeve shirt, cargo pants and brown colored hiking boots had approached them on foot out of the desert area near Sterling Road. The man said, “Que pasa,” to the party who had pulled over to change a flat tire. The party explained that they didn’t speak Spanish, and the man walked away. Moments later the man returned and stood on the opposite side Highway 395. The reporting party observed the male lay down on the ground holding a rifle pointed at the vehicle. The reporting party was alarmed and fired a warning shot from a registered handgun in the air to try and scare off the male. The reporting party described being afraid for their lives, and began to slowly drive away southbound without finishing the change of the flat tire.

Further description of the individual with the gun revealed that the suspect was Matthew David Hays, a 35-year old man known to law enforcement. Deputies arrived on scene near Hays’ residence; moments later Hays appeared from his trailer. Deputies observed Hays holding a black colored rifle with a scope. Numerous announcements were made to drop the firearm. At one point, Hays began running towards law enforcement while holding the rifle and continued holding the rifle at the low ready position with the muzzle end of the rifle slightly raised. Hays eventually began walking off north-westerly into the desert.

A CHP helicopter responded and observed Hays in the desert, still with a rifle. However, the helicopter was forced to refuel and lost sight of Hays. Mutual aid was requested with Kern County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team along with Inyo County SED team. After SWAT and SED arrived on scene, a search of the area was conducted but the suspect could not be located. A search of an abandoned building nearby revealed the rifle and the suspect’s clothing. A search of the suspect’s residence was also conducted with a search warrant. The search resulted in the recovery of several pellet gun rifles and one bb handgun from the suspect’s residence.

A search of the vast area was conducted to locate the suspect. Due to the expansive territory and night time conditions, the search did not locate the suspect. An arrest warrant has been issued for the subject. The suspect is described as a white male, 6’2”, 165 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes. The public is strongly encouraged to contact the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at 760-878-0383, option 4, if anyone has any information that can lead to the arrest of Matthew David Hays

The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office extends its appreciation to the following agencies that assisted last night: Kern County SO, CHP, BLM, Forest Service LEO, Liberty Ambulance, and Olancha Volunteer Fire Department.

Dead Body Found Near Manzanar

On August 8, 2020 Inyo County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a report from a hiker of a potentially deceased female in the foothills west of Manzanar National Historic Site. Sheriff’s Deputies arrived and located a deceased female. A search of the area produced a red sweatshirt and multicolored tennis shoes approximately two miles from her body near the base of the Sierra Mountain Range.

Inyo County Search and Rescue were dispatched to the scene to provide additional tracking support on August 8 and August 9. Based on foot impressions it is believed that she walked north along Foothill Road after exiting a vehicle, then east along a smaller dirt road where she eventually sat down and perished. There was no indication of a struggle or initial signs of foul play.

There was no identification located near or around the body; however Bishop Police Department had logged contact with a female matching the description of the decedent on July 30. Based on the information gathered during the contact, a positive identification was confirmed on August 11 and next of kin was notified. The deceased has been identified as Elaine Hartnett, a 48-year old woman from Pioneer, CA. A forensic autopsy has been scheduled to take place in Orange County, CA to determine cause of death. If anyone has had contact with Ms. Hartnett in Inyo County and can provide information please call Sheriff’s Dispatch at 760-878-0383, option 4

The Eastern Sierra Has Never Been Busier, Nor More Trashed

Campgrounds, public lands, and public facilities have never been busier than they are right now in the Eastern Sierra. The large increase in visitation to towns and areas in the Inyo National Forest is likely because visitors from Southern California and other areas of the state and country have been encouraged to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are looking for a getaway in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Unfortunately with a high amount of visitation, comes a higher chance of seeing vandalism, littering, trash dumping, dispersed camping, and illegal campfires.

Inyo National Forest Public Affairs Specialist, Deb Schweizer, says she cannot remember a time that she has seen campgrounds and hiking trails busier. “I have never seen our public lands busier,” Schweizer said. “I have never seen as much violation of rules as we are seeing right now such as illegal campfires, dispersed fires, trash dumping, and vandalism.”

One such example of the disregard some individuals are showing is near June Lake. Trees and rocks have been vandalized with graffiti on hiking trails, trashcans have been left overflowing with waste, and playgrounds have been riddled with trash.

According to Mono County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Sarah Roberts, the department’s June Lake Substation was vandalized, and the door was kicked in. The Mono County Sheriff’s Office says they are investigating the incident.

At this point in time, they are not completely sure if the vandalism occurred this past weekend or beforehand. Luckily the substation is not currently used by the department, so nothing of value was taken.

Another recent example of some of the disregard travelers are showing on public lands is at the Crestview Rest Area just north of Mammoth Lakes. One picture posted on Facebook shows four dumpsters filled to the brim with trash along with litter spewed across the parking lot.

Schweizer says that the Inyo National Forest is not the only place that has seen an uptick in illegal activity on public lands. “The vandalism is not just happening on the Inyo. The National Forest Service has seen an increase in vandalism, littering, and illegal campfires everywhere,” Schweizer said.

CDFW Euthanize Fish at Three Facilities Due to Bacteria Outbreak

Three California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the Eastern Sierra and Southern California have been battling a bacterial outbreak that has affected 3.2 million fish. This week, after consultation with fish pathology experts and exhausting all avenues of treatment, CDFW announced that the fish, which are all trout, at the affected facilities must be euthanized in order to stop the spread of the outbreak.

The affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – usually provide fish for stocking waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region. The euthanization of all the fish at these facilities will have a profound effect on CDFW’s ability to stock fish for anglers in those regions in the near future.

“Euthanizing our hatchery stocks was not a decision we came to lightly, but it had to be done,” said Jay Rowan environmental program manager for CDFW hatcheries. “This bacterium is resistant to all the treatment options we have available for fish. The fish losses were getting worse despite our treatments. The best option we have available that will get us back to planting fish from these hatcheries in the shortest timeline is to clear the raceways, thoroughly disinfect the facilities, and start over.”

CDFW has had the three facilities under quarantine for more than a month, while pathologists and hatchery staff treated the affected fish and researched potential options. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has been reported in cattle and poultry farms as well as fresh and salt water fish and shellfish hatcheries around the world, but had never before been detected in fish in California. Research of treatment options employed at trout farms in Europe and other parts of the world show there is almost no chance for successfully eliminating the bacteria from a facility without depopulation and disinfection.

Fish that are infected with can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely but there are several documented instances associated with immunocompromised people consuming infected raw fish and unpasteurized milk products.

Hot Creek Hatchery in the Eastern Sierra has tested negative for the bacteria and is still planting eight waters in Inyo and Mono counties. CDFW is in the process of developing a modified stocking plan to reallocate fish from central and northern California hatcheries to a small number of high angler use, easily accessible waters in geographically distinct parts of the eastern Sierra and Southern California.

For real-time updates, California anglers can refer to CDFW’s Fish Planting Schedule. This schedule is updated directly by CDFW hatchery staff. Although it contains current information, all fish plants are subject to change depending on road, water, weather and operational conditions.

Mammoth Lakes Tourism Welcomes New Board Member

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (July 13, 2020) At its July 1 meeting the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board of Directors appointed Pat Foster to the At-Large seat available on the board.

Born in Bridgeport, Foster has been a lifelong resident of the Eastern Sierra,having lived in June Lake and Bishop for most of his life. He is the President of Hot Creek Aviation at the Mammoth Yosemite Airport where he has spent the last 21 years providing General Aviation Services and working alongside the town’s air service partners.

Mammoth Lakes Tourism has done some amazing work over the last several years and I am excited to join its efforts,” Foster said.We find ourselves in unprecedented and challenging times right now -I am hoping I can contribute to a responsible recovery.”

The role of the At-Large Board seat is to provide guidance from the larger business community in Mammoth Lakes. It is meant to bring a perspective beyond the other represented groups of lodging, restaurant and retail.

“As a lifelong Eastern Sierra resident, and President of Hot Creek Aviation, Pat Foster brings a unique perspective on our community to the MLT Board of Directors,” said Board President, John Morris.We look forward to his input and wisdom regarding the pending expansion of air service to Bishop Airport and other key strategic initiatives.”

Northern Inyo Hospital is Running Low on COVID-19 Tests

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Will Timbers and Chief of Staff, Dr. Stacey Brown held a press conference Friday afternoon to discuss the current situation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic at Northern Inyo Healthcare District.

Nothing major has happened this week according to Dr. Brown, which is something he is relieved about. “I am super happy that we don’t have anything earth shattering to report on today, which shows that we are doing what we can to put a lid on this thing,” Brown remarked.

The discussion shifted toward antibody testing, which is being offered to essential workers throughout the community. “I think we are getting some traction finally on the testing front. I believe we will expand our net of antibody testing before these tests expire on the twenty-fifth of this month. Personally, I have signed off on eight to ten tests for my patients in the past few days. We will hear from our Director of Diagnostics, Larry Weber on how many tests have been administered by next Wednesday,” Brown said

Though antibody testing is available for many in the community, the same can not be said for the hospital’s supply of nasal swabs that detect active COVID-19 infection.

Northern Inyo Hospital has a short supply of PCR nasal swabs due to the rise in cases throughout the United States.

Dr. Timbers remarked that the supply chains are starting to waver, which has made it more difficult for the hospital to acquire testing kits. The Chief Medical Officer said, “We are down to twelve tests, so we will likely run out of them in the next few days. We will be receiving more of them in the next 5-7 days. The reason for a lack of tests goes back to the conversation at beginning of pandemic. We need to have systems in place, so when we do have a crisis situation we can respond accordingly.”

Inyo National Closes Group Camps Under Forest Order

The Inyo National Forest is extending the closure of all group campgrounds and two remote campgrounds under a forest order closure The closure can be terminated or extended depending in conditions.

Please see Exhibit A (in the link above) for a full list of campgrounds included in this order.

The decision is based upon recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state and local health authorities.

Developed recreation group campsites on the Inyo National Forest typically draw large groups of people, creating mass gatherings and concentrated groups of forest visitors. This results in significant management oversight. especially during the high use conditions now being experienced.

Additionally, due to lack of personnel it is necessary to close two developed campgrounds, Grandview Campground and Kennedy Meadows Campground, located in remote areas of the Inyo National Forest. These facilities are located in areas that timely and routine cleaning cannot occur.

This closure is an interim measure. The Inyo National Forest will follow guidelines from the CDC, as well as state and local health departments, to ensure that the safety of our employees and our visitors is a priority.

Visitors are also urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with local health and safety guidance. For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.

Klondike Lake Open for Public Boating

From July 3 to September 7 (Labor Day), Klondike Lake will be open for limited public boating use on weekend days only: Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 9 a.m. to sunset. At this time spots are limited and on a first come, first served basis.

Precautions are being taken to guard against invasive mussels, so all motorized watercraft must be inspected before being launched into Klondike Lake. Due to COVID-19, face coverings and social distancing are required. We will take additional measures during boat inspections to protect boat owners and LADWP employees. Boat access to Klondike  is free this summer period  and subject to change for future seasons.

Access for motorized watercraft being transported by car, truck and/or trailer will be allowed for a one-hour period between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the gate entrance in order to accommodate inspections. After watercraft have been inspected and granted access, visitors can enjoy the lake for as long as they want that day, while practicing safe social distancing. Please note, recreational users with smaller, non-motorized watercraft that are not transported with a trailer can access the lake at any time.

 

Laws Museum Train Rides Postponed

Regretfully, all train rides in the Brill car, Old Smokey, and on the hand car, have been postponed until the state of California moves to Stage Four in the recovery stages. These very popular attractions at Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site are not able at this time to meet safe distancing and other criteria under present recovery stages.

Presently, the Railroad Express rides, sponsored by the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, are still scheduled for Saturday December 12, and the Museum hopes that they can have train rides at that time.

The Inyo County Health Department is allowing the Museum to offer special Charter rides in the Brill car for single family groups with a maximum of ten people at one time. All participants will be required to wear face masks, practice safe distancing, and follow all the other guidelines for your safety during the ride. Charter rides are available at almost any time during Museum open hours, by advance reservation only. Please call the Museum at 760-873-5950 to make your reservations.

Eastern Sierra Foundation Increases Scholarship Funding for Student

The Eastern Sierra Foundation would like to congratulate the 76 Cerro Coso Community College 2020 graduates from Inyo and Mono Counties! While we are saddened that due to the pandemic an in-person graduation celebration is not possible this year, we are so impressed by the graduates’ perseverance, resilience, and strength in completing their certificates and degrees during these very challenging times. We know that the Class of 2020 will all go on to make positive contributions to our community and our world.

This year, Cerro Coso Community College’s Eastern Sierra College Center in Bishop and Mammoth graduated students in 26 different certificate and degree fields, including humanities, social sciences, math and sciences, studio arts, administration of justice, business, art history, English, human services, management, nursing, information technology, childhood development, medical assisting, and web development. Half of the graduates earned multiple degrees and/or certificates. Cerro Coso Community College will be hosting a virtual graduation on Saturday, June 13 at 6PM. For more information visit https://www.cerrocoso.edu/studentservices/commencement.

Each year, the Eastern Sierra Foundation offers full scholarships for any and all Inyo County residents who enroll in 12 units per semester on the Bishop Campus. The scholarship covers all enrollment fees. Additionally, in response to economic challenges resulting from the pandemic, the Eastern Sierra Foundation will now also cover up to $500 per semester for books. Scholarship applications and information are available online https://www.cerrocoso.edu/studentservices/financial-aid/eastern-sierra-foundation-scholarship. Due to the uncertainty about whether four-year colleges will offer in-seat courses in the fall, and to support local students who may be changing college plans, the Eastern Sierra Foundation has extended the scholarship deadline for the Fall 2020 semester to Tuesday, June 30 at 5PM.

Northern Inyo Hospital Officials Discuss Inyo County’s 20th COVID-19 Case

Dr. Stacey Brown and Dr. Will Timbers of Northern Inyo Healthcare District told KIBS/KBOV News that a patient has tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive result is the twentieth confirmed case of coronavirus in Inyo County.

“We had our first positive case after quite awhile this week. Just this morning, we got a result of a positive swab from the drive through testing line on Wednesday. The fact that we have broken our long streak of negatives, requires a little more consideration that the virus has spread around,” Brown said.

Rural Health Clinic Director, Dr. Stacey Brown, said that at this point, he is not sure if the confirmed case is the beginning of an uptick in cases. “We don’t know if this is the beginning of the second surge or if it is something sporadic.”

Dr. Brown said that it would be alarming if this is the beginning of a second wave of infections due to the lack of herd immunity in the community. “I think it is a huge concern for us. We don’t have any herd immunity, so we are a naive place for this virus to settle in,” Brown remarked.

Though it is too soon to determine if the twentieth confirmed case of COVID-19 is the beginning of a surge in cases, Brown says Northern Inyo Hospital is prepared regardless. “We are doing great on a district level. We are super prepared for whatever hits the door. We have personal protective equipment, staff and resources. We are ready for the community when they need us,” Brown expressed.

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Will Timbers, believes the community has done an outstanding job when it comes to curtailing the spread of COVID-19 as evident by the forty-one days without a positive case. “The forty-one days we had without a COVID patient was all because of the community taking the proper precautions. I want to give a shout-out to the community for doing such a great job,” Timbers said.

Fishing Season is Open in Inyo County

As requested by county officials, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham is lifting the delay of the trout opener in Inyo County. Beginning May 28, trout season will be open in the county.

The trout season was originally scheduled to open in Inyo County on April 25, 2020. In April, CDFW had discussions with county leadership regarding trout fishing, which typically draws a high tourism influx to the area. Local officials were concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 and its potential to put a strain on their healthcare systems. Further, all non-essential businesses including lodging, dining and camping options were closed in compliance with state and local public health officers’ orders. Thus, CDFW, in consultation with Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar, delayed the opener through May 31, 2020.

However, in a letter yesterday, Inyo County officials requested that CDFW end the delay before May 31, indicating that the county received approval from the California Department of Public Health to move into the Governor’s Phase Two, Stage Two Resilience Roadmap and would begin discussions of reopening. Though county officials requested the opening on May 27, CDFW required one additional day for consultation and processing this request, thus the delay in Inyo County will expire at midnight on May 27 and fishing can resume on May 28, 2020.

This decision does not affect the trout season in any other county.

CDFW reminds anglers to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Staying home in order to stay healthy is still the best way to keep yourself and others safe. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of access points as many site closures and access restrictions exist and may change daily.

Pursuant to the emergency regulation approved by the Commission, CDFW will provide accurate information for the angling public at this website or by phone at (916) 445-7600.