County officials urge Governor to use hospitalization rates as a measure to reopen Kern

May 14, 2020 /

Public Health officials confirmed four new COVID-19 related deaths Thursday at a press conference, bringing the total to 21 COVID-19 related deaths in Kern.

The Kern County Public Health Department also confirmed 50 new cases of COVID-19 in Kern, bringing the total number of cases to 1,403.

With this news, Kern County still does not meet the benchmarks the Governor has set in order for a county to reopen its economy.

“Right now, we are not in compliance with all of the parameters of that guidance,” said Ryan Alsop, Kern County’s Chief Administrative Officer, of the Governor’s guidelines.

The California Department of Public Health says before counties can reopen, there cannot be any COVID-19 deaths within the last 14 days of a request to reopen 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, Matt Constantine, the director of Kern County Public Health Services, said Monday.

Alsop is suggesting the Governor’s office use a different methodology when determining if a county is safe and ready to responsibly reopen. Alsop said a better measurement would be based on daily hospitalization rates compared to the total number of tests.

“This is a better indicator of preparedness to reopen,” Alsop said.

As of Thursday, there were 40 people be isolated in the hospital. The County also has an alternative care site at the Fairgrounds, which can hold up to 250 people.

“We have plenty of capacity in all our hospitals,” said Alsop. “We will be continuing to work with the medical community to make a case to the Governor.”

Because the state has required an increase in testing, the county can expect to see an increase in positive cases as it ramps up its testing, according to Alsop. There will soon be 10 free testing sites across Kern, and there will be at least 2,000 tests conducted per day in Kern, Alsop said.

“The number of positive tests are going to increase,” he said. “The guidelines are a little confusing given the fact that we are needing to ramp up our testing.”

Featured Photo: Jesus Sandoval, left, and his son Roberto get a little sun and discuss the issues of the day in downtown Bakersfield Tuesday. Recent rain has kept Jesus from his job planting carrots. “We can’t work right now because the tractors sink into the wet soil and the seeds need to be planted in good soil. Wet weather keeps the seeds on the surface and they won’t grow. His son Roberto says that he had recently been working construction and they were sending his crew to Los Angeles but he was laid off as the Coronavirus pandemic hit. People in LA are really taking the situation seriously. Very few people are out and when they are out they take precautions. “I don’t see that as much in Bakersfield,” he says.

Elizabeth Sanchez

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