Have face coverings in Kern become a thing of the past? Health experts say masks can help flatten the curve

July 8, 2020 /

Delia Ramos works as a rehabilitation aide/tech in Fresno County. She works eight-hour shifts and wear personal protective equipment the entire time.

“I want to protect others,” she said. 

After quarantining for the recommended two-week period and testing negative for COVID-19, she thought it was time to visit her family in Bakersfield. But when she arrived, she was shocked to see the lack of precautions being taken by Kern County residents.

“I was disappointed to see that Kern County, and its residents were not knowing the severity of the virus,” said Ramos. “When picking up groceries, I was only part of a few people wearing a mask because it wasn’t required. In Clovis, it isn’t required either, but people still wore their masks.” 

During her visit, she stopped at a gas station in Rosedale for a quick snack, and the clerk frowned upon people wearing masks, according to Ramos. 

“She was speaking negatively about people that wear masks, and calling them uneducated,” said Ramos. “I knew she was referring to me and my friends because we were the only ones wearing masks.” 

Ramos recalls the clerk making comments like, “Only Chinese people should be wearing masks because they are the ones that are sick,” and “If you wear one, you must be sick too.” 

In recent weeks, Governor Newsom called on 19 counties across California — Kern County being one of them — to take steps back regarding the reopening process because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday alone, the Kern County Public Health Department confirmed 216 new COVID-19 cases — the most ever confirmed in one day.

And this isn’t the only metric Kern is seeing a drastic rise in.

Health officials also confirmed 146 people are isolating in the hospital, which is 21 more people than the day before. Twenty-one new hospitalizations are the most ever confirmed in one day.

Many local and state leaders continue to stress the importance of wearing face coverings when in public, but local health and county officials have said they will not take an enforcement approach when it comes to wearing a mask. In Kern County, it is more of a strong recommendation.

The California department of Public Health said the use of face coverings by everyone can limit the release of infected droplets when talking, coughing, and/or sneezing, as well as reinforce physical distancing. 

The transmission of the virus is believed to spread from respiratory droplets. These microscopic droplets can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, talking, etc. Despite scientific support many people choose to not wear masks because they believe they are ugly, useless, seen as a weakness, or even bothersome.

Health experts say there is plenty of evidence to support the the effectiveness of wearing face coverings. A study published in Health Affairs compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to UCSF. After three weeks of the mask mandate, the daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases had slowed by 2 percentage-points.

UCSF also shared two compelling case reports that suggest masks can prevent transmission in “high-risk scenarios.” In one case, a man who was postive for COVID-19 got on a flight and wore a mask. All 25 people closest to him on the flight tested negative for COVID-19, according to UCSF. In another case two hair stylists in Missouri had close contact with 140 clients while sick with COVID-19. Everyone wore a mask and none of the clients tested positive, UCSF reprots.

The increase of positive tests in Kern County has caused great concern for many residents. Between social media posts and going out in public, it’s not secret social distancing has become a thing of the past and wearing a mask has lost its tread in Bakersfield.

It seems even Kern’s local elected officials and leaders are not taking the necessary precautions.

There have been a number of residents inquiring about why local law enforcement officers are not wearing masks. And some government officials have gone without the face coverings at city council meetings — meetings where social distancing and face coverings are required for members of the public in order to enter the chamber.

However, local health officials say wearing a mask can play a part in flattening the curve in Kern County.

Dr. Kris Lyon, Kern County’s Health Officer, said by wearing face coverings, social distancing and washing your hands can play a part in local hospitals’ abilities to care for patients.

“Try not to put yourself in a position to get infected with the Coronavirus,” Lyon said last week. “We do need to be physically distancing if we are going to decrease the spread of Coronavirus.”

*It should be noted that Delia Ramos’ personal experience does not account for all of Fresno County.