County officials hope Governor is willing to work on state provisions that Kern doesn’t meet in order to reopen

May 11, 2020 /

County officials said Monday at a press conference Kern does not meet two state-issued criteria that must be met in order for counties to reopen.

The California Department of Public Health says before counties can reopen, there cannot be any COVID-19 deaths within the last 14 days and no more than one COVID-19 case per 10,000 residents over the same time period. Kern County is averaging 30 new COVID-19 cases per day, according to Matt Constantine,  the director of Kern County Public Health Services.

‘These are things we would like to work with the Governor on,” said Ryan Alsop, the County Chief Administrative Officer. “This is a responsible and thoughtful request from us to his administration, and we look forward on how we can have a dialogue on how we can be prepared to accelerate through these stages.”

The Governor’s plan to reopen the economy is made up of four stages, and Kern County is currently in stage 2.

In order to move forward to stage 3, county officials would like the Governor’s office to treat Kern County as an exception to the criteria, considering more than half of Kern’s COVID-19 related deaths came from a state-operated nursing facility in Bakersfield and the size of the County.

“We would like to figure out a pathway through those two provisions,” said Alsop.

Nine out of the 15 COVID-19 related deaths came from the Kingston Healthcare Center, and half of the hospitalizations came from the same facility. 

Alsop also noted the variation within the county.

“What is happening in Bakersfield is not what’s happening in Ridgecrest,” said Alsop.

The county will get a better picture of what is happening throughout Kern as it ramps up testing with the opening of five new testing sites this week throughout Kern County.

Alsop said it’s comes down to how willing the Governor will be to work with the County, but he said the county is prepared. He reassured there is the hospital capacity, with the alternative hospital site at the Fairgrounds, which can hold up to 250 people.

“The county is well positioned,” Alsop said. “This is something that is going to depend on the willingness of the Governor and his staff.”

Because of the increase in testing and positive cases, some question whether Kern will be ready to reopen anytime soon.

“We still believe although there are greater cases on some days than others…we have instituted a number of protocols to address some of these daily fluctuations,” Constantine said. “In a population of 900,000, that number still remains low.”

As of Monday, Kern had 32 new cases. There are almost 1,300 cases of COVID-19 in Kern County, and of that number, 759 people have recovered. There are 512 active cases.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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