Health officials confirm 153 new cases and 7 new COVID-19 deaths, say Kern can expect to see a dramatic rise in cases in the coming days

July 16, 2020 /

The Kern County Public Health Department confirmed Thursday 153 new cases of COVID-19 in Kern and seven new COVID-19 related deaths.

And public health officials said they expect a significant increase in cases in the coming days.

“This is a level we have not experienced yet,” said Matt Constantine, the director of public health. “We expect those numbers to increase as we go through the weekend.”

The expected dramatic increase in cases is the result of a significant increase in testing. The County and State funded sites collectively are conducting around 800 to 900 tests per day, according to Megan Person, the county chief communications officer. In Kern County, there have been more than 90,000 tests conducted.

This has caused a delay in labs processing the tests and getting the results in the hands of public health officials, which then delays public health’s capabilities to contact trace. For every positive test there are about four contacts that contact tracers identify, health officials say. That’s a lot of people to contact, with more than 100 cases being confirmed each day.

Because of the increase in testing, Constantine said Public Health is redeveloping its staffing plan to address the influx of cases. The department is looking to contract with outside agencies and hire more staff to help with the increase in testing.

“This is requiring us to reassess how we do things,” Constantine said.

There are now 105 COVID-19 related deaths, and a total of 7,084 cases of COVID-19 in Kern. Of the total cases, 4,523 people have recovered.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 245 COVID-19 positive patients are in the hospital. Of this number, 151 people are isolating in the hospital and 62 patients are in the Intensive Care Unit, leaving 73 ICU beds available.

Constantine said a state model released last month is still predicting Kern to exceed its ICU capacity by the end of July.

“We are hopeful we are not going to get there and hopeful the model is not correct,” he said.

Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said one of the most critical components of managing COVID-19 is Kern’s hospital capacity, which not only entails beds, but also staffing.

“We continue to coordinate with our 10 acute care hospitals to ensure we are ready, and we got the appropriate amount of beds,” he said.

Alsop said Kern can expect to have more than 100 cases a day for the “foreseeable future.”

“The vast majority of those who test positive will fully recover,” Alsop said. “Please expect a small percentage of those who test positive to require hospital care…Also please expect that an even smaller percentage will die, unfortunately.”

Health officials also confirmed Kern is not on the state monitoring list, but expect’s to be in the near future.

And when Kern is on the state monitoring list for three consecutive days, Governor Newsom’s restrictions for fitness centers, worship services, and personal care services like hair salons and tattoo shops, will apply in Kern “for an indefinite period of time,” said Alsop.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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