BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County Public Health reported 11 new coronavirus deaths Thursday which brings the total for the county to 583. And when it comes to cases public health reported a small drop with 474. In all, nearly 88,000 people have contracted COVID-19 in the community since the pandemic started.
The Kern County Fairgrounds is being used for testing and vaccine administration but it's also the county's contact tracing site. 23ABC's Bayne Froney explains how public health plans to contact those who have been exposed to the virus and help stop the spread.
The fairgrounds are being utilized as a contact tracing site where the staff is able to contact those who may have been exposed to the virus, helping prevent the virus from spreading further. The fairgrounds have been designated as COVID-19 prevention site, with over 40 contact tracers employed to reach out to residents who may have been exposed to the virus.
"Contact tracing and case investigation is so extremely important in our fight against COVID-19," explained Brynn Carrigan, assistant director for Kern County Public Health. "We attempt to make contact with every single COVID-19 positive case that we receive a report on."
Carrigan said that for every COVID positive case, their tracers are making 4 - 5 phone calls to let people know that they may have been exposed.
"It is extremely important for us to identify who those contacts are as quickly as possible so that we can reach out to them and let them know that they have been identified as a close contact to COVID-19 and they need to immediately self-isolate."
The fairground location is a space for multiple public health programs: testing, vaccinations, contact tracing, and according to Kern Public Health, space can be utilized into a field hospital that could hold up to 200 individuals.
"The intent here is to help the hospitals handle increased flows," said Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine. "We have seen over the months and actually over the weeks, the number of hospitalizations has dramatically increased, our ICU cases have increased."
The health department has a staffing plan along with a layout as to where the equipment would go if hospitals were in need of the alternative care site. The site would allow for both COVID and non-COVID-related patients.
"It is to help the hospitals for those patients that would likely be released in the coming days and free up the hospital beds a little sooner," added Constantine.
But Constantine said that he hopes to never have to utilize the alternative care site.
"The intent of this is to tell people that they may have been exposed, to self-quarantine, to try everything that you can to keep yourself safe and then not allow the disease to transmit so that we don't need this alternative care site."
Constantine has a proposed plan that they will be presenting to the Kern County Board of Supervisors next week to help staff the fairgrounds site completely.