Kern County Public Health department is experiencing an increase in demand in work as it rolls out its mass vaccination clinic this week, Public Health officials said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting.
The department’s call center received the largest call volume Monday with 1,937 calls in just one day, said Brynn Carrigan, the Assistant Director of Kern Public Health. Prior to the pandemic, the department received anywhere between 200 to 400 calls a day. The increase in demand has forced the department to temporarily move County employees from their jobs to assist with the call center.
“Our employees are beings stretch very thin,” said Matt Constantine, the Director of Public Health. “These guys are working very hard.”
Because of the increase in demand of work with the vaccination site, contact tracing and testing, an emergency operation center is to be activated, Constantine said. This center will help run the mass vaccination clinic, help with public outreach and more.
Carrigan said the County is waiting to hear from the State on a state call system that will help alleviate the increase in demand in the call center.
The County has seen an increase in its call center as it prepared to open its mass vaccination site at the Kern County Fairgrounds to the public Wednesday.
Carrigan said the plan is to administer 2,000 vaccines this week between Wednesday to Saturday. Last week, with it’s soft launch, the department administered 1,545 doses of the vaccine, when it only anticipated administering 1,200 vaccines.
Based on California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan, those eligible to make an appointment for a vaccine include those in Phase 1A and those 65 years of age and older are eligible for vaccination.
Those who fall in these group and are interested in making an appointment for a vaccine can do so by calling 661-868-0165.
Carrigan said when the Governor gives the green light for counties to move into the next phase of the vaccination plan, which would allow for food and agriculture workers, educators, childcare workers, and emergency services workers to receive the vaccine, says there may not be enough vaccines.
“This will increase the demand with not enough vaccines,” Carrigan said.
The County is not the only provider of the vaccine. More than 90 provides around Kern County are offering the vaccine. You can find more providers here.
The County’s goal is to vaccinate 920,000 people in Kern county twice, according to Tom Beckett, the Technology Services Manager at Kern County Public Health. This includes the goal of eventually administering 5,000 vaccines a day at the mass vaccination site 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. When the site has enough vaccines to reach this goal, it will expand to drive-thru vaccines.
The County is currently working to prepare the Kern County Fairgrounds for this phase. Workers are currently making infrastructure improvements at the site, such as removing tripping hazards, preparing to put in asphalt, removing fencing and creating a 14-lane drive-thru operation, according to Beckett.
Beckett said, “We are building this out so when more vaccines are allotted to Kern, we are ready to grow.”
The mass vaccination site is currently in its first phase, which allows it to operate Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phase 2 will allow health officials to administer 1,000 vaccines a day for five days a week for 8 hours a day. Phase 3 will allow health officials to open the drive-thru operation and administer 2,000 vaccines a day for five days a week, 8 hours a day. The fourth and final phase of the roll our will allow health officials to administer 5,000 vaccines a day with drive-thru and walk-in appointments for seven days a week, 12 hours a day.
The Kern County Public Health Department announced Tuesday 555 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 31,301 cases in Kern.
This story was written as part of the Kern Sol News COVID-19 Awareness Campaign, which strives to inform Kern County of the latest COVID-19 news and educate the community on how to remain safe during the pandemic.