Brynn Carrigan, Kern County Public Health director, announced last week that Kern County will not move into the yellow, a less restrictive tier, but will remain in the orange tier.
Two weeks ago, Kern County moved to the orange tier based on California’s blueprint for a safer economy. Last week, two of the three metrics of Kern County met the yellow tier requirements, but by May 12, Kern County will be eligible to move into the less restrictive tier if all metrics are met.
Carrigan indicated that the case rate met the orange tier metrics, but public health saw a decrease from last week. The adjusted case rate last week was 3.4 per 100,000 people, while two weeks ago it was 3.7 per 100,000 people. County-wide testing positivity rate was 1.4 percent, a decrease of 0.1% from last week. The county’s health equity positivity rate was 1.5%, a 0.5% decrease from last week’s equity positivity rate.
Only 8 counties in California have a case rate under 3 per 100,000, which signifies that Kern has been doing well in decreasing disease prevalence, stated Carrigan.
Kern has been allotted 409,725 COVID-19 vaccines, while 443,336 vaccines have been administered to residents. About 28 percent have completed their vaccination series in Kern’s 16 and older population. Public health stated, 41 percent of the 16 and older population have been partially or fully vaccinated at this time. Additionally, 55.7 percent of Kern County’s 65 and older population are fully vaccinated. At the current rate of allotment per week of COVID-19 vaccines given to Kern, Carrigan stated it would take 35 weeks to fully vaccinate the 16 and older population.
Public Health recognised a decrease of doses administered to residents in the past two weeks. This occurred during the week of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine nationwide pause. On April 13th, the FDA and CDC called for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses to be put on pause due to rare blood clotting cases that occurred in 6 women ages 18-48 after receiving the vaccine. During this week, starting April 12th, Kern County saw a decrease of 14,105 doses administered when compared to the week starting April 5th administered doses.
An investigation was conducted to ensure the safety of the vaccine. On April 23, the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices (ACIP), met a second time since the pause. Their review of the data showed that low platelet counts were associated with the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine. As a result, the advisory committee approved on Saturday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may resume the administration of the vaccine under the emergency approval guidelines. This means those 18 years and older can now receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The Western State Scientific Safety Workgroup also reviewed this data, and also concluded that California providers may continue to administer the vaccines as long as they provided educational material to patients on all possible symptoms of the vaccine and other vaccine options. On Monday morning, Kern COVID-19 vaccine providers were given the okay to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Carrigann stated, “Blood clots with low platelet counts are very very rare, it is important to know that for people that may be concerned about the J&J vaccines, there are other vaccine products available. As vaccines are still the safest way to build immunity against Covid.”
According to the CDC, more than 87 million have been fully vaccinated in the United States, and of these people, only 7,157 people contracted COVID-19 after. Indicating, 0.008 percent of fully vaccinated people contracted the virus.
“This tells us that vaccines are preventing infections,” states Carrigan.
At this time, Kern Public Health is now recognizing COVID-19 infections and related deaths as preventable.
Carrigan emphasized that Public health will continue outreach efforts to inform residents about the COVID-19 vaccines. This includes, TV and radio segments, social media campaigns, and the continuation of the 3 mobile vaccination sites. Additionally, efforts include going door to door to answer questions, mass mailing of infographics and using the reverse 9-1-1 and Public Health nurse Hotline. The hotline is available from 7AM to 7PM. Residents are encouraged to call or text 661-677-4177 for COVID-19 vaccine-related questions.