Kern County leaders address plans for COVID-19 pandemic

March 30, 2020 /

Kern County government, education and health leaders came together Monday morning for a press conference to discuss Kern’s upcoming COVID-19 plans to keep residents safe and healthy.

The Kern County Public Health Department confirmed a total of 60 COVID-19 cases and one death in Kern County. The number of pending tests has jumped to 930, Matt Constantine, the director of Kern County Public Health Services, said at a press conference Monday.  

The county is divided into five regions: Valley, Bakersfield West, Bakersfield East, Mountain, and desert. Eleven cases have been identified in the Valley region, 33 cases in the Bakersfield West region, 11 cases in the Bakersfield East region, two cases in the Mountain region, and two case in the Desert region.

Health Updates

The Kern County Public Health Department proclaimed a local health emergency Monday morning, Constantine said. This will give public health authority to implement plans to ensure residents have access to health care, medication and equipment, and allows the public health department to access resources from the state and federal government, according to Constantine.

There are 15 trailers in route to Kern County to help the Public Health Department address homeless individuals who are suspected of testing positive or who have tested positive of COVID-19, Constantine said.

The trailers, which will be parked at the Kern County Fairgrounds, will provide homeless individuals a place to self-isolate.

“This will allow stabilized housing for individuals during their treatment period,” he said.

An alternative care site is also in the works and will be located at the Fairgrounds as well. This site will take overflow of patients from hospitals, should such a situation arise.

However, hospitals are putting together a plan that will allow them to take a 40 percent greater number of patients than on a regular basis, according to Russell Judd, the CEO of Kern Medical.

Government Updates

Kern County will follow Governor Newsom’s eviction moratorium, Supervisor Leticia Perez said at the press conference.

The moratorium requires tenants who cannot pay rent due to COVID-19 to declare in writing they can not pay all or part of their rent; however, Perez encourages those who can pay to continue paying their rent because “matters will proceed when it’s over.”

Perez said people will eventually have to pay back the rent they owe. She encourages people in this situation to call her office at (661) 868-3690, so her team can work on a case by case basis.

“When this is over, we will work through those matters as a community,” she said.

Kern County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop and Bakersfield City Manager said the county and city will likely extend it’s state of emergency beyond April 14, which was the date county and city employees were set to return to work.

“This is an issue that needs to be taken seriously,” Clegg said. “Know that we are prepared, and we will get though this together.”

Although parks will remain open, the city of Bakersfield is also going to begin to increase signage and some minimal barriers, such as caution tape on park equipment, to reinforce need for social distancing at parks, said Clegg. Clegg discourages people from using park equipment.

Education updates

Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow said her team and members from all 47 districts in Kern County communicate daily to solve issues they are facing.

Barlow said there are three priorities: meals, education, and technology. However, the meals program seems to be the most challenging, according to Barlow.

Last week, KCSOS provided meals to 108,000 students per day, according to Barlow.

“That speaks to the need within our county,” she said.

KCSOS said district around the county collectively will be outfitting dozens of buses to be MiFi hotspots in communities where connectivity is challenged.

KCSOS also received 20,000 Chromebooks to distribute to students who do not have devices, and has partnered with Canvas for online schooling.

Barlow said, “Continuity of instruction at physical schools may be closed, but learning continues.”

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.