Kern’s hospitals begin to reach, exceed ICU capacity, health officials say

August 6, 2020 /

Local hospitals are beginning to reach and exceed the their Intensive Care Unit capacity as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Kern County, according to local health officials.

Matt Constantine, the director of Kern County Public Health, said Adventist Health Bakersfield, Kern Medical, Mercy Southwest, and Mercy Downtown hospitals have all either reached or exceeded their licensed ICU bed capacity.

“This is what we’ve been preparing for for quite some time,” Constantine said at Thursday’s press conference.

The California Department of Public Health reported 76 people were in the ICU in Kern as of Aug. 5. As of Thursday, Kern had 40 ICU beds available, according to Ryan Alsop, Kern County’s chief administrative officer.

In just one month, the number of ICU beds available in Kern’s 10 acute care hospitals has been cut nearly in half. On July 6, there were 85 ICU beds available. However, the numbers continue to fluctuate daily. It was on July 22 when there were just 17 ICU beds available in Kern, according to CDPH.

Both ICU and staffing capacities have remained a concern for public health officials for some time; however, nurses have been deployed to Kern County to assist with the influx of ICU cases. Public Health officials said some nursing teams have arrived to Kern this week. Kern expects 80 ICU nurses to assist Kern’s hospitals.

Health officials confirmed 291 new cases of COVID-19 in Kern, bringing the total number of cases to 21,724. Of this number, 6,109 people have recovered.

“We always expected cases to rise,” said Kim Hernandez, Kern Public Health’s lead epidemiologist. “COVID-19 is truly a novel virus and most of us are going to catch it.”

Because no one is immune to the virus, almost everyone is at risk of contracting it, Hernandez said.

“We want to minimize that of course, and I am hopeful we can,” Hernandez said.

Health officials stressed the importance of continuing to take precautionary steps to staying safe and healthy, including: eating healthy, exercising, decreasing alcohol intake, social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, refraining from touching one’s face, staying home when sick, and avoiding those who are sick.

Head to Kerncounty.com for COVID-19 testing information.

Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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