County officials are hopeful to reopen with Governor’s new guidelines announced Monday

May 18, 2020 /

After Governor Newsom announced new guidelines for California counties to reopen, Kern County announced on Twitter Monday afternoon that it will be able to move through phase two of the Governor’s four-stage plan to reopen much quicker.

“We’re pleased to hear the Governor’s announcement today that he’s changing the criteria for CA counties to submit a variance,” Kern County wrote on Twitter. “We’ve reviewed these changes, which are in line with our recent requests of his Administration & can confirm that Kern is positioned to meet the criteria.”

Kern County said on Facebook it will ask the Board of Supervisors to approve an attestation, potentially as early as tomorrow.

Once it is approved, the county will send it to the State for approval. Once the state gives the approval, the County will begin working immediately to start reopening the businesses within Stage 2, continuing to adhere to State guidance, according to a Facebook post.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll be approved but we need the community’s help to ensure we’re following the guidelines as they’re set now so that our #s continue to hold,” a Tweet said.

The new guidelines removes the death rate requirement, which before stated counties couldn’t reopen if there was a death within 14 days of a request to reopen.

The new guidelines is based on rates of newly confirmed cases, the LA Times reports. Counties will be able to reopen faster if there is no more than 25 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days before taking action.

Counties have to also show that hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients have stabilized, “meaning they can’t increase by more than 5% over a seven-day period or that a county can’t have more than 20 hospitalizations on any single day over a seven-day period,” the LA Times reports.

County officials submitted a request to the Governor’s office asking for greater flexibility regarding the reopening of Kern County.

The request, made by County officials and CEOs from Kern County hospitals, urged the Governor to consider using the daily hospitalization rates as an indicator to determine if Kern can safely move through Stage 2 of the Governor’s four-stage plan to reopen the state of California, ultimately ending the shelter-in-place order.

“We think it’s being considered,” said Ryan Alsop, Kern County’s Chief Administrative Officer, of the request. “We would like to see a turnaround on that as soon as possible…We look forward to hearing from the Governor and his team hopefully this week.”

Alsop has said he believes the hospitalization rate is a better indicator of Kern’s preparedness, instead of relying on the two previous benchmarks the Governor required for reopening, which Kern didn’t meet.

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

As of Monday, 36 people who tested positive for COVID-19 were being hospitalized. The remainder of the cases, which is 96 percent of the cases, are either fully recovered or are recovering at home, Alsop said.

Kern is also averaged about 26 positive cases per day, according to Public Health.

Case Update

The Kern County Public Health Department also confirmed Monday 1,537 cases of COVID-19 in Kern County. Of this number, 976 people have recovered, while there are still 536 active cases.

Data released by Kern Public Health shows 66 percent of Kern’s COVID-19 cases have been identified as Hispanic. This is a total of 1,014 cases.

“It is important for us that we reach out to those who are most affected by this,” said Matt Constantine, the director of Kern County Public Health Services, of overwhelming number of Hispanic cases.

The percentage of Hispanic cases is disproportionately higher than the group’s population representation in Kern County. Data shows 54 percent of Kern’s population is Hispanic or Latino, according to 2019 data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nursing Facility Updates

There have been 25 COVID-19 related deaths, and of these deaths, 12 have come from the Kingston Healthcare Center, a state-operated nursing facilitiy in Bakersfield.

Last week, the Kern County Public Health Department began it’s Nursing Facility testing program, where it is testing residents and staff at local nursing facilities to prevent future outbreaks.

Last week, public health tested 70 employees at Valley Convalescent Hospital, and plan to conduct 100 more tests this week at the San Joaquin Nursing Center.

The state has reported 17 residents at the Valley Convalescent Hospital and 9 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

RELATED CONTENT: Kern Public Health to begin local COVID-19 testing program at nursing facilities in response to outbreaks

Featured Photo: At mid-day Tuesday traffic on Chester Avenue near the GET bus terminal is infrequent enough for a pedestrian can cross the street without to much concern. As people in Bakersfield are told to observe isolation and distancing precautions because of the Coronavirus pandemic effecting the United States and the world, the streets in Bakersfield are much less crowded during peak hours. Some businesses can remain open if they provide essential needs of the population. While many have closed doors. Photos by Henry A. Barrios for Kern Sol News

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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