Updated 5/19/20 at 4:00pm
During the Kern County Board of Supervisors afternoon meeting, all five supervisors voted unanimously in favor of supporting the re-opening of Kern County businesses according to stage 2 guidelines. The BOS will now send attestation to Governor Newsom for approval.
County Admin Office Manager Jason Wiebe outlined the steps taken prior to the vote: letters from County hospitals in support of their effort to accelerate through Stage 2, assurance that County hospitals could handle a potential surge in COVID-19 cases, and the outcome of a consultation call with the California Department of Public Health.
“Kern County has been providing clear guidance and resources to all essential workers, public, non-profit, private sectors, since the stay-at-home order went into effect March 19th,” said Wiebe.
Under Stage 2, businesses classified as destination retail (walk-in store, shopping mall, strip mall) and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to re-open.
“Our staff has gone up and beyond getting this plan together and ready for submission, said Supervisor Zack Scrivner. “There are still several layers of approval that are going to be required at the state level.”
Matt Constantine, Director of Public Health Services says his department did request a timeline of action from the state; however, the state gave no assurances or confirmation.
“They indicated that they would not define a timeline, but they said normally, expectations are between 1 to 3 days.”
If approved by the state, Kern County businesses could be allowed to re-open as early as Friday heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
At the morning Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Supervisor Mike Maggard, a member of Kern County’s COVID-19 Ad-Hoc committee, said Kern is prepared to manage the capacity at local hospitals to hold a number of patients if necessary, has the ventilator capacity and is “prepared to handle whatever surge may occur.”
“We have gone through great lengths to make sure this is the case in Kern County,” Maggard said. “We are prepared to move forward. We can manage our hospital capacity. We can manage those who are ill. We can trace the contact of those (infected). We are prepared to move forward with this.”
The board is set to address the reopening of Kern a day after the Governor announced more lenient guidelines for counties to reopen. The new criteria allows counties 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 or if less than 8 percent tests return positive results of COVID-19.
The Kern County Public Health Department confirmed Tuesday of the 1,581 COVID-19 cases in Kern County, 1,034 people have recovered.
Kern County officials has been advocating for a few weeks that the state to use hospitalization rates as a metric to determine whether a county is ready to safely reopen. Officials have said multiple times the previous benchmarks were too strict.
Before Monday’s announcement from the Governor, the California Department of Public Health said before counties could reopen, there couldn’t 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.
Supervisors Zack Scrivner, another member of the COVID-19 Ad-Hoc committee, called these previous guidelines “impossible” with the state’s request to ramp up testing.
“That would have been very difficult for our county of our size,” Scrivner said.
“We will be testing 1,000 people a day, and more (results) will be positive,” Maggard said. “It’s an arbitrary number. The key is we must be measuring the amount of hospitalizations that are occurring.”
As of Tuesday, 33 people were being isolated in the hospital.
“The Governor listened and has the most difficult job,” Maggard said. “He, too, is trying to protect the lives of Californians.”
Scrivner said the reason why the state and county was “locked down” was to prevent an overflow of patients in the hospitals.
“So you didn’t have to make a choice between one person getting a ventilator and the other one not getting one,” he said.
Scrivner said Kern County has continued to demonstrate that hospitalization rates have been flat over the course of the last several weeks.
“My hope is we are able to accelerate through Stage 2 and demonstrate we can do that responsibly and move to Stage 3.”