Kern put on state’s COVID-19 watch list; County officials say this could impact Kern’s ability to reopen

June 11, 2020 /

With Kern’s COVID-19 cases on the rise, Kern County now does not meet benchmarks set by the state that allow California counties to continue to reopen economies, according to state public health officials.

The California Department of Public Health’s monitoring program looks at three metrics to determine if a County is meeting the state guidelines: a rise in the number of positive cases; COVID-19 hospitalization rates; and if hospitals are reaching capacity.

“Here in Kern, we are seeing elevated transmission of COVID-19, along with elevated hospitalization rates,” said Ryan Alsop, Kern County’s Chief Administrative Officer, at a press conference Thursday morning. “These trends, if they continue, may impact us continuing to reopen locally.”

As of Thursday, county public health officials reported 74 new cases, bringing the total to 3,026 cases. Kern is now averaging 50 to 60 new cases per day, which is an increase by about 20 from just a few weeks ago.

According to state data, Kern had a total of 73.3 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. Kern positives tests also make up 8.2 percent of all tests administered.

The California department of Public Health measures transmission rate by look at if there are more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in a 14-day period in a given county or more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in a seven-day period and a positivity rate above 8 percent.

Although Kern does not meet state standards, businesses in phase three are still continuing to reopen. The state released guidelines earlier this week for movie theaters to open and guidelines for 12 other industries last Friday.

However, if Kern continues to see an upward trend in transmission rates, officials say this could impact Kern’s ability to continue to open.

Alsop said if Kern is unsuccessful in addressing the upward trends and decreasing it’s numbers, then Kern may have to pull back in regards to reopening businesses.

“This doesn’t mean we close everything down, necessarily,” Alsop said. “But we are going to have to be open to action we need to take if we are unsuccessful in getting those upward tends under control.”

Kern County officials said they have been talking with state officials about Kern’s latest upward trends and can expect to continue to see cases rise.

“(Kern’s) cases will continue to increase. Our hospitalizations are projected to increase, and our ICU cases will continue to increase,” said Matt Constantine, the Director of Public Health. “That is not anything unexpected. What we are worried about is how much will it increase and over what period of time.”

County officials did not say there is a certain time frame counties have to address these trends. Other counties that do not meet the state benchmarks include Fresno, Imperial, Kings, Los Angeles, Tulare and more.

County officials stressed the importance of people continuing to take precautions as the numbers rise. They said to wash your hands, don’t touch your phase and social distance as much as possible.

“The virus is here,” said Alsop. “It’s going to remain here, and it’s going to continue to spread in this community in the months ahead. We need to understand that and be hyper-vigilant of that while we reopen.”

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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