Data shows Kern’s COVID-19 cases have slightly decreased; health officials say it’s too early to see trend

June 5, 2020 /

Data released by the Kern County Public Health Department throughout the past two weeks shows Kern’s COVID-19 cases have slightly decreased since the County reopened in May.

It has been exactly two weeks since Kern County was given the green light from the state to begin reopening businesses that fall in the Phase two category. This means Kern County has gone through the incubation period for COVID-19, which can range from two to 14 days, according to public health officials.

On May 21 — the day Kern County reopened some industries — the county reported roughly 19,000 COVID-19 tests had been administered and of that number, 1,644 came back positive. These positive cases made up about 8.65 percent of the total COVID-19 tests administered.

Fast forward two weeks, more than 30,000 tests have been administered, and 8.01 percent of the those tests account of positive results.

Although this shows a minor decrease, health officials say a two-week time period is too short of a time frame to determine a trend, according to Michelle Corson, the spokeswoman for the Kern County Public Health Department.

County officials also said there could be an uptick in cases in the coming weeks, with the large gatherings taking place in recent days.

“Yes, we are concerned,” said Matt Constantine, the director of public health. “In fact, we are concerned with any activity that could increase those numbers and impact our hospitals.”

Since Kern’s reopening, the number of people hospitalized has slightly increased. When the County reopened on May 21, public health officials reported 38 people with COVID-19 were being hospitalized. Two weeks later, that number has slowly increased to 55 people being hospitalized, as of Thursday — seven of which are skilled nursing facility residents, according to Constantine.

The number of deaths has also increased. As of Thursday, public health officials reported 45 COVID-19 related deaths; however, two weeks prior, they reported 25. Health officials said Thursday 24 of the 45 COVID-19 related deaths are from state-run skilled nursing facilities.

State guidelines allow counties to reopen if hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients have stabilized. This means the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalized can’t increase by more than 5 percent over a seven-day period or can’t have more than 20 hospitalizations in one day. Counties must also ensure there is no more than 25 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, or a positive test rate of less than 8 percent.

As of Thursday, Kern County has 269 cases per every 100,000 residents, according to the CDC.

Constantine said Thursday the state has the power to put a halt to Counties reopening if they fail to meet guidelines.

“We may have to revert,” said Constantine.

However, county officials said Thursday the Governor has given Kern the green light to move into Phase three of the state’s plan to reopen as soon as the California Department of Public Health releases guidelines.

Phase three of the state’s four-phase plan to reopen allows higher-risk businesses, such as gyms, nail salon, public pools, and bars, to reopen.

“As soon as we get the guidance, we will begin opening those businesses as quickly as possible under those state guidance,” said Ryan Alsop, Kern County’s Chief Administration Officer.

However, County officials are not sure how soon those guidelines will be released by the Governor’s office. Alsop said these guidelines could be released in stages, meaning the state could release guidelines for one industry one day and for another industry the next day.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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