Kern County and the United States as a whole is beginning to see a decrease in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the U.S Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Monday during a press conference in Bakersfield.
Adams said Kern and the U.S. are ‘over the hump’ of COVID-19 because positivity rates across the county have decreased, the nation is close to a vaccine and it has seen some states — previously and drastically impacted by the virus — recover.
“We are, I think, over the hump,” Adams said. “I think we are over the hump because positivity rates are down and because we are near a vaccine.”
The nation’s positivity rate is now under five percent, according to Adams, and he anticipates a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year or in early 2021.
He also said he has hope because he has seen states hit the hardest, such as New York and Arizona, recover and reopen their economies. New York, which saw a huge rise in cases, is now seeing below 1 percent positivity rates for several weeks without a vaccine, according to Adams.
“We just need people to do their part,” he said.
Adams stressed the “Three W’s,” which are wash hands, wear a mask and watch your distance.
“We don’t need a vaccine (to reopen),” he said. “As long as we take preventive measures, we can resume normal life.”
However, Adams said public hesitation for taking a COVID-19 vaccine that could be out as soon as the end of this year will not stop him from taking the vaccine. He assured the community that the vaccine will follow FDA guidelines.
“I will be first in line to get the vaccine,” he said.
Adams said he came to Bakersfield to inform the community of improvements.
“The reason why I came here is to help everyone understand what’s going right, and what’s doing right is that we have significantly lowered the death rate of the virus,” he said. “But we still have some problem spots.”
Adams talked about how black and brown minority groups are being disproportionately affected by the virus for a number of social determinants. Often times, these communities do not have access to healthcare and do not have the option to telework, said Adams.
During Adams’ visit in Bakersfield, he toured different sites and spoke with elected officials, community members, and industry leaders. He toured farming areas, Kern Medical, small businesses, and schools.
A round table discussion was held with industry leaders to discuss the the impacts COVID-19 has had on the County and the future of the County during the pandemic.
“What my impression of Kern County was is there is a tremendous amount of partnership here,” Adams said.
During the press conference, Grimmway President Jeff Huckaby expressed his gratitude for the attention of the U.S Surgeon General about how agriculture workers are working everyday to feed the nation and the opportunity to explain to the administration about their situation that they go through amid this pandemic.
Local elected officials, industry leaders and Adams all shared they want the same thing for the County — to reopen businesses and schools. And Adams highlighted the personal responsibility of each member of the community to make that a reality.
To counter any objection about promoting people to stay home and wear a mask Adams said, “We are not trying to take your liberty. We want to give you the freedom to do the things we want.”
Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard stated he has hope once again for the County.
“The surgeon general Dr.Adams has just been fantastic in helping us having the assurance that we have federal resources available for us here in Kern County,” Maggard said. “So we are going to present to him our strategy for how we can test and do that effectively and he has given us his assurance that he will give the reagent and those supplies we need to make sure that can happen.”
Matt Constantine, Director of the Kern County Public Health Department, said he hopes more people will use the testing resources available. The County may try and find a way to incentivize people to get tested as COVID-19 may be passed by asymptomatic carriers, Constantine said. If more people are getting tested, they will be able to trace the virus more efficiently.
As far as reopening Kern’s economy, Adams stressed the importance for the community to see low transmission rates to feel safe and comfortable before they decide to take their kid to school or go to church.
Photo courtesy of Rod Thornburg.
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.