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First, it was toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Those were among the first items to fly off the shelves as COVID-19 took hold, prompting stay-at-home orders and the closure of nonessential businesses. Then came the meat shortage, and a persistent lack of surface wipes. The latest commodity to come up short? Pocket change, Banks around the U.S. are running low on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, prompting the Federal Reserve, to ration scarce supplies. The shortage has been fueled by two factors. The U.S. Mint produced fewer coins than usual this spring as it sought to protect employees from infection and bank lobbies — where consumers often exchange coins for bills — were mostly shuttered during the peak of the lockdown.


The Morongo Basin Healthcare District Board of Directors will be meeting tonight. Reporter Cassidy Zimarik shares the agenda…

The Morongo Basin Healthcare District Board of Directors virtually meets Thursday evening in regular session. The board is expected to approve a declaration regarding racism as a public health crisis. The declaration will lay out ways in which the district will actively participate in the dismantling of racism. The board will also receive a presentation regarding the Feeding Morongo Basin project.

After a calendar review, the board will move into closed session.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.


Link to join meeting:

This meeting is locked with a password: #meetingPassword

You can also dial in using your phone at United States: +1 (872) 240-3212 Access Code: 360-541-893


Two Yucca Valley men were arrested early Wednesday morning after they were found with drugs. About 6:45 a.m., deputies made a traffic stop on a vehicle after it failed to stop at the stop sign at Kickapoo Trail and Navajo Trail. Inside the vehicle was the driver Robert Williams, 47, and passenger Torin Spruell, 43. Williams had two felony warrants for his arrest, and Spruell had a misdemeanor arrest warrant. While searching Williams and the vehicle, deputies located methamphetamine and paraphernalia consistent with the sales and distribution of the drug. Williams also had a fixed-blade knife concealed on his person. Robert Williams was arrested for investigation of possession of methamphetamine for sales and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, and for his warrants. He was booked into the West Valley Detention Center and is being held without bail. Torin Spruell was arrested on his warrant and booked at the Morongo Basin Jail and released.


While the Twentynine Palms Combat Center still plans a fireworks spectacular high above the skies of the base, most Fourth of July fireworks and other events around San Bernardino County have been postponed, or cancelled altogether, due to continuously evolving COVID-19 conditions. Rebecca Havely says that just because we can’t all gather together, doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate this holiday…

Like many things this year, a large gathering with strangers is simply not smart as the virus continues to infect people throughout the county. But this certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the birth of our nation.

Watch a patriotic movie Courtesy photo

This is the year to have a smaller, household celebration instead of traveling or having that traditional block party.

From lawn displays to a backyard campout, there are literally dozens of ways to celebrate. Go on a family bike ride with the bikes decorated with the red, white, and blue. Go camping in your back yard. Watch a patriotic movie. Take a virtual tour of museums and historical sites. Get crafty with patriotic projects. Read the Declaration of Independence. Hold a water balloon fight.

Courtesy photo

For more ideas:


According to California Governor Gavin Newsom, effective immediately, 19 counties, including San Bernardino County, must close indoors operations for restaurants, wineries, movie theaters and family entertainment, zoos, museums, and cardrooms until further notice. Bars must close all operations until further notice.


The coroner’s office has identified the two victims who were killed in separate crashes in Yucca Valley Thursday. Just after 3 p.m., 81-year-old Ramona Pedrosa of Yucca Valley was a passenger in a vehicle that was hit broadside on the passenger side by an unidentified male driver at the intersection of Highway 62 and Airway Avenue. County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria said Pedrosa appeared alert and responsive when firefighters were extricating her from her vehicle, she became unresponsive when placed on the gurney. Paramedics performed CPR as she was taken to Hi-Desert Medical Center, where she was pronounced deceased.

Then about 10:40 p.m. Thursday, first responders were called to a fatal collision involving a Jeep Wrangler and a pedestrian. David Morse, 75, of Yucca Valley, was crossing the highway, outside of a crosswalk, when he was struck by the Jeep traveling westbound on the highway. Morse was killed at the scene.


San Bernardino County hit another record for new coronavirus cases and testing Tuesday (June 30). The county reported 753 new cases, the highest number of cases reported on a single day, and four deaths. Public health officials attribute the increase to a backlog of cases over the past several days. There have been 12,550 cases confirmed and 253 deaths so far. The daily updates reflect cases and deaths that occurred over the past several days, not on a single day.

Here in the Morongo Basin there are 81 confirmed cases: Yucca Valley with 40; Joshua Tree 19; Twentynine Palms 14; and Morongo Valley, eight.

Tuesday, the county reported its biggest number of tests on one day, at 6,720. So far, 139,704 people have been tested in the county, of which 9 percent were positive.
For the past week, the county has averaged more than 4,000 tests per day. Hospitalizations continue to go up, with 393 COVID-19 positive patients in county hospitals, up from 376 on Sunday. A projected 6,961 people have recovered from the disease, according to the county.
The time it takes for the virus to double in the community was 19.3 days.

Location         Positive Cases
Adelanto      171
Apple Valley  177
Barstow          60
Big Bear City           6
Big Bear Lake           9
Bloomington 222
Chino           1,399
Chino Hills    251
Colton           548
Crestline        21
Fontana       1,469
Fort Irwin       2
Grand Terrace         59
Hesperia        334
Highland      365
Joshua Tree 19
Loma Linda 137
Mentone       69
Montclair      274
Morongo Valley        8
Needles         5
Oak Hills        43
Ontario         1,183
Phelan           43
Rancho Cucamonga 564
Redlands     526
Rialto 724
Rimforest       1
Running Springs      7
San Bernardino      2,076
Twentynine Palms   14
Upland         333
Victorville     527
Wrightwood   2
Yucaipa        333
Yucca Valley           40
Undetermined          529
Grand Total   12,550


San Bernardino County is facing a dangerous wildland fire season this year. Fireworks are known to start many brushfires, and fire and law enforcement agencies will be conducting operations this year to stop illegal fireworks. In addition, many pets are terrified of fireworks. July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters as residents search for their lost and missing pets who ran off when fireworks started.

California has banned any fireworks that explode, shoot into the air, or move along the ground. Possession and use of illegal firework—like firecrackers, skyrockets, and others—will result in a ticket; fines are up to $1,250 for the first offense with the possibility of arrest. In addition, property owners may be cited if they allow fireworks to be possessed, stored or used on their property. Ernest Figueroa says the county fire department has created a new tool to help residents report suspected illegal fireworks…

The Office of the Fire Marshal just launched an Illegal Fireworks Reporter website that allows people to report illegal fireworks online. Residents may make an anonymous report on the website. Include the date, time, and specific location of the suspected illegal activity. Photos and videos may be included in the submission of each report, and can aid in the investigation of alleged violations.

To make an anonymous report, residents may visit


The California Department of Transportation entered into a lease agreement allowing XpressWest to use existing state right-of-way along Interstate 15 for high-speed passenger rail service between Apple Valley and Las Vegas. The privately-financed project will construct a 170-mile long, electric high-speed passenger rail system that will run along I-15’s median protected by barriers. Approximately 135 miles of the system will be in California. An environmental study estimates the completed project will reduce carbon emissions by 300,000 metric tons a year – the equivalent of removing nearly 65,000 vehicles off the road. Additionally, XpressWest expects to create more than 10,000 jobs during the project’s construction with another 500 new jobs post-construction.


The Morongo Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved the district’s preliminary budget for the 2020-2021 school year at last night’s board meeting. During budget discussions over the past few months, the board was forced to make many proposed budget cuts due to lack of state funding resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the state budget still undergoing constant changes, the school district budget will likely see many more revisions before being finalized. Reporter Andrew Dieleman has more from the meeting…

The MUSD Board of Trustees also received a presentation from Director of Secondary Education Dustin Howard on current guidelines and cautions from the National Federation of High Schools on 2020-2021 sports and athletics programs for students. While bringing back athletic programs is ultimately up to the school district, Assistant Superintendent Amy Woods stated that sports are not currently considered a factor for MUSD’s reopening.

The board also cautiously approved the 2020-2021 school attendance calendar with the understanding that in-person classes may not be available by August 24 based on student safety related to COVID-19.

The MUSD Board of Trustees. From left to right: Assistant Superintendent Sharon Flores, Trustee John Cole, Interim Superintendent Doug Weller, President Hillary Slotta, Trustee Chris Proudfoot, and Assistant Superintendent Amy Woods. Trustees Karalee Hargrove and Kerri Condley attended the meeting virtually.

Discussions on renewing the district’s lease with the Town Center Mall in Yucca Valley for the ACCE programs led to nearly an hour of discussions over whether the classes could instead be held on the Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms high school campuses. The board ultimately voted 3-2 (Trustees Karalee Hargrove and Chris Proudfoot voting no) to approve the three-year lease while the option of moving the classes at the end of the first year is further explored.

The board also issued a declaration of need for fully qualified educators in the district (Trustee Hargrove abstaining), announced that the district will approved a modified purchase of up-to-date science books for K-6 classes at a reduced price without lab kits, and voted to receive a $32,000 grant for the Districts summer feeding program.


Today is the first day of the new fiscal year, and the Yucca Valley Town Council will hold a special meeting tonight. Managing editor Tami Roleff hits the highlights of tonight’s agenda…

Among the items on tonight’s agenda, the Yucca Valley Town Council will amend the special revenue budget for the Pima Street improvement project and slurry seal project; and adopt a revised coronavirus pandemic local emergency policy. The council will also hold a public hearing on placing Burrtec’s waste-handling charges on the property tax rolls of property owners. Tonight’s meeting is set for 6 p.m. in the Yucca Room of the Yucca Valley Community Center, or watch it online at: .

The Town of Yucca Valley encourages your participation in this meeting; however, in order to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we ask that you please take into consideration the following:
1) You are strongly encouraged to view the meeting live on the Town’s website at . To view from the website, select the live stream link on the top of the front page.
2) If you choose not to attend the Council meeting but wish to make a public comment and/or a comment on a specific agenda item, please submit your comment via email by 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1, to the meeting secretary at . Your comments will be distributed to the Town Council and every effort will be made to read your comment into the record. Comments read will be timed and limited to three minutes. All comments should be a maximum of 500 words, which corresponds to approximately three minutes of speaking time.
3) You may also submit comments during the meeting through the same email address. Every effort will be made to read comments aloud which are submitted after 6 p.m. and during the meeting, subject to the same 3-minute time limitation. All comments submitted before and during the meeting will be included in their entirety in the official record of the meeting.
4) If you choose to attend the Council meeting in person, seating in the Council Chamber may be limited in order to accommodate the 6-foot recommended social distancing seating procedure.
5) In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance to participate in this meeting, you should contact the Town Clerk’s Office at (760) 369-7209 x226.


The 29 Palms Art Gallery needs your help. This has been a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has left the non-profit 29 Palms Art Gallery with no income to pay for normal monthly expenses, let alone unexpected maintenance issues. Donations are needed now to help fund some serious maintenance issues to this historic adobe gallery, a nearly 70-year landmark in Twentynine Palms.

Donations are needed to help fund some serious maintenance issues to the 29 Palms Art Gallery.

With the absence of activity in the gallery since mid-March, desert rodents decided to move into the historic adobe building. Some of the damage included chewing electrical wires of the security system; the gallery needs to hire a professional service immediately to provide rat/mice abatement.

A fundraising campaign has been launched on the 29 Palms Art Gallery’s Facebook page. To learn more about this campaign and how you can help the historic gallery, go to:


The Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors will hold a board meeting later tonight at 5 p.m. Reporter Joshua King has details on the agenda.

Tonight’s Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors 5 p.m. meeting kicks off with a vote to approve the water standby assessment rates, which is a water availability charge for vacant land in the water district that is added to the owner’s property tax. The charge is not expected to change this year.

Next, the board will select a design and bid for a new monument sign outside of the Hi-Desert Water District office.

Finally, the board will move to approve a change order for a pipeline bid in the total of $4,575.

To watch this meeting online, follow the link:


Copper Mountain College will be closed Thursday, July 2, for Independence Day. The college will resume its normal summer operating hours on Monday, July 6.


Updated 11:15 a.m. July 1, 2020 with clarification of the charges.

A 26-year-old Landers man who has been arrested six times just in 2020 was arrested again Saturday. Deputies were called to the 61400 block of Verbena Road in Joshua Tree just before 5 p.m. by residents who said that Thomas Pratt was armed with a knife and was refusing to leave the house. When deputies arrived, they saw Pratt breaking the home’s front window. When Pratt saw the deputies, he pulled a knife from his waistband and threatened them. The deputies stunned him with a taser and took him into custody without further incident. Thomas Pratt was arrested on suspicion of possession of a dirk or dagger, assault, burglary, and vandalism. He was booked into the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $50,000. Pratt was arrested earlier this year for vandalism, resisting arrest, lewd behavior in the presence of a child, DUI, and twice for violating a court order to prevent domestic violence. He was out of custody on his own recognizance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


A naked man was arrested Saturday after he tried to break into a neighbor’s home. Deputies were called to the 62000 block of Bonair Road in Joshua Tree about 4 a.m. by a resident who said there was a naked man, later identified as William Chandler, 20, of Joshua Tree, outside her house and was throwing rocks at the living room window. When he tried to come in her front door, she met him with a baseball bat. Deputies determined that Chandler was high on hallucinogenic drugs. Deputies had to use force when they arrested William Chandler for investigation of burglary. He was booked into the West Valley Detention Center with his bail set at $25,000.


Two new Sheriff’s sergeants have recently joined the Morongo Basin station. Managing editor Tami Roleff makes the introductions…

Sergeant Erik Smoot Sheriff’s Dept. photo

Morongo Basin residents might recognize the name of Erik Smoot, who served for many years in the Morongo Basin as a patrol deputy before he was promoted to detective in 2013 and moved to the Apple Valley station. Sergeant Erik Smoot served in the United States Navy before he joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in 2003. Smoot started his career at the West Valley Detention Center and then assigned to patrol functions at the Morongo Basin station. Smoot worked as a patrol deputy in the unincorporated areas of the Morongo Basin, the City of Twentynine Palms and the Town of Yucca Valley. He was promoted to detective in 2013 and worked at the Apple Valley Station, before returning to the Morongo Station as a detective. In 2014, Smoot was transferred to the Narcotic’s Division, were he worked on both the Regional Meth Task Force and Inland Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team, which focused on large scale narcotics trafficking. In 2018, Smoot was promoted to sergeant and assigned back to the Morongo Basin Station as a patrol supervisor. Smoot recently took over as the detective sergeant and currently supervises the detective division, traffic division and the special enforcement teams, out of the Morongo Basin Station.

Sergeant Scott Stafford Sheriff’s Dept. photo

Sergeant Scott Stafford joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in 2000. Stafford started his career at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center and then assigned to patrol functions at the Twin Peaks station in 2003. Stafford worked as a patrol deputy in the communities of Lake Gregory, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs. In 2007, Stafford transferred to the Victorville City station and continued patrol functions there. While at the Victorville station, he was a field training officer and trained numerous new patrol deputies, until he was promoted to detective in 2012. He remained at the Victorville City station as a detective, until he was transferred to the Specialized Investigations Division, Homicide Detail, at Sheriff’s Headquarters in 2015. Stafford worked as a homicide detective until he was promoted to sergeant in 2018. He was assigned to the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino as a shift supervisor. In 2019, Stafford was transferred to the Morongo Basin station as a patrol supervisor. Stafford recently took over as the administrative sergeant and currently supervises the professional staff and handles the day to day administrative duties at the Morongo Basin Station.


The Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a suspect involved in a domestic violence and kidnapping case in Landers. Deputies were called about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 21, to the 55800 block of Valli Hi Road in Landers because neighbors heard a woman screaming for help. Deputies found a woman who had multiple scratches and bruises on her left arm and face. The woman said she had been at a friend’s house near the area of Reche Road and Acoma Trail in Landers when her ex-boyfriend, Khorey Dawson, 25, of Johnson Valley arrived. Believing that Dawson wanted to talk about their relationship, the victim got in his vehicle. While they were driving, they started to argue and the woman said Dawson started to punch her in the head, face, body, and arm, and she lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, she tried to get out of the moving vehicle, but Dawson grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back inside. When she asked to be let out, he refused to stop, but she was eventually able to escape the moving car. Dawson left the scene and did not check on her welfare. Deputies have issued an arrest warrant for Khorey Dawson for spouse abuse and kidnapping. Anyone with information should call the Sheriff’s Department at 760-366-4175.


A Morongo Valley convicted felon was arrested Friday after he was found with a partially assembled semi-automatic rifle. Just before 4 p.m., deputies contacted Austin Toensing, 34, near Onaga Trail and Kickapoo Trail in Yucca Valley. During a search of Toensing’s backpack, deputies located a partially assembled AR-15 gun. According to deputies, the receiver block had not been milled and the weapon was not fully operational. Toensing, as a convicted felon, is not allowed to possess firearms. Deputies seized the semi-automatic rifle. Austin Toensing was released at the scene pending further investigation.

Sheriff’s deputies seized this AR-15 rifle kit from Austin Toensing, 34, of Yucca Valley. Sheriff’s Dept. photo
This AR-15 was found 80 percent assembled in the possession of Austin Toensing of Yucca Valley. Sheriff’s Dept. photo


The Morongo Unified School District Board of Trustees will hold its regular meeting tonight via videoconference. Reporter Andrew Dieleman has the meeting agenda…

The Morongo Unified School District board of Trustees will begin tonight’s meeting in closed session at 6:30 p.m. to conference with labor negotiators. In open session, beginning at 7 p.m., the board will adopt the district’s 2020-2021 preliminary budget, issue a “declaration of need” for fully qualified educators in the school district, approve the district’s 2020-2021 school attendance calendar, and accept a $32,000 grant for the district’s summer feeding program. The meeting will be held via YouTube live from the official MUSD YouTube page.

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