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Amid record surge in COVID-19 cases, vaccines for Kern County delayed

Virus Outbreak Washington Vaccine
Adventist Health Bakersfield
Posted at 5:07 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 20:25:20-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It was a record-breaking day for Kern County in its fight against COVID-19. Tuesday marked the single highest number of daily reported cases since the onset of the pandemic, with 2,082 new cases of COVID-19 being reported.

This number was adjusted to include cases from prisons and skilled nursing facilities and not just the general public. Those two places accounted for roughly 800 cases.

Health officials also reported one new coronavirus related death. That brings Kern County to 470 deaths since the pandemic started.

Amid this record surge in COVID cases in Kern County comes word that the Pfizer vaccine has yet to make it's way here. This as concern over ICU capacity continues to grow. According to the Kern County Public Health Department, the state says those vaccines won't arrive until the end of the week.

Dignity Health Doctor Hemmal Kothary said the months-long anticipation for Pfizer's COVID vaccine will have to wait a little longer.

"Unfortunately we will not be getting it until Thursday or Friday of this week," said Kothary. "We were expecting the vaccine [Monday] actually and then we thought we'd get it today. And we were told this morning we have it. They have it there, and then a few minutes later we were told it's not going to come until later in the week."

Adventist Health Bakersfield also expected the vaccine Tuesday but are in a similar situation

"We are looking probably at the end of this week where we actually have the vaccine in-house and will be able to start deploying it," explained Kiyoshi Tomono, partnership executive with Adventist Health Bakersfield.

During the wait, comes a record-breaking amount of new COVID cases in the county as Kern's ICU capacity is dwindling. Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine said there are 292 COVID hospitalized patients with 66 COVID patients in the ICU as of December 13th. That leaves 20 ICU beds available. But according to the state there are only 6 ICU beds available because they don't count pediatric ICU beds. That's why the state adjusted the county's ICU capacity from 4.8% to 0.

The situation is grim at the state level too as Governor Gavin Newsom announced a regretful purchase.

"We just had to order 5,000 additional body bags just purchased for the state and we just distributed them down to San Diego, Los Angeles, Inyo counties. That should be sobering," said Governor Newsom.

It's one reason Governor Newsom said the vaccine brings hope. The first round is dedicated to health care workers in emergency rooms, ICU's and COVID units. Next in line will be patients at long-term facilities. But the vaccine won't be available to the general public until most likely next year.

"I think the general population should be able to, I'd say the month of January, latest February, should be able to get the vaccine," said Kothary.

And with the Moderna vaccine expected to receive FDA approval soon, officials are hoping that would speed up the process to make the vaccine available to the general public. The governor also announced that the state expects an additional 393,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by next week and more than 600,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of December.

When it comes to the vaccine Governor Newsom gave a more detailed update on how the state plans to distribute the vaccinations.

"As you know, we not only put together a scientific advisory committee on October 19, but we also established two additional committees. We established the drafting guidelines workgroup, and we established a community advisory workgroup. The guidelines workgroup and the advisory workgroup are all about equity and distribution - the nuances, the details, the specificity of where these vaccines go, how they are distributed, and how we can guarantee you with the type of transparency you can expect that they truly are being delivered to those most in need with a prioritization."

Governor Newsom also expanded upon his previous mention of a tiered distribution plan. Tier One represents people who will get the vaccine first because they are at the greatest risk. This includes people in skilled nursing facilities, paramedics, and dialysis centers. Tiers Two and Three include other health care workers and people in other high-risk settings.

Governor Newsom rolled out new quarantine guidelines for Californians. If someone tested positive for coronavirus, typically they'd be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Now that requirement is reduced to 10 days for asymptomatic people.

As cases rise, health care workers are at an increased demand. If nurses or doctors get sick they are subject to a 7-day quarantine. They must also test negative after five days before returning to work.