BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — For months Kern County businesses, schools, and churches all faced the strictest COVID-19 regulations in the Purple Tier. But on Tuesday, Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan announced the county will officially move into the Red Tier Wednesday, after meeting the necessary metrics for two weeks straight. This will allow certain industries such as restaurants, movie theaters, and retail stores to expand operations.
Carrigan said as of Tuesday the adjusted case rate in Kern is 5.5 per 100,000 people. Our testing positivity rate is 2.8% and our health equity quartile rate is 3.9%. Both those numbers meet the metrics of the Orange Tier.
County officials were expecting public health to make the announcement on Monday after Kern County started meeting the metrics to qualify for the Red Tier last week.
According to the Kern County Public Health Department, Red Tier rules will go into effect starting Wednesday. That means local businesses can start making adjustments to welcome more customers.
"Today the state will announce that Kern County has met the red tier metrics for two consecutive weeks and Kern County will move into the red tier effective tomorrow," said Carrigan during the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting.
It's the first time since October 2020 that Kern County is leaving the state's most restrictive tier and transitioned into the Red Tier of the state's color-coded reopening system.
"I love the fact that things are opening up a little bit more," said Kern County resident Ofelia Subia.
Added resident Joey Titus: "Faster the better. Open things up."
According to Kern County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson, limited capacities will expand under the Red Tier.
"Restaurants are able to open indoors at 25 percent capacity. Gyms are able to open indoors at a 10 percent capacity. Movie theaters are able to open indoors at a 25 percent capacity."
And retail stores can extend their indoor capacity to 50%.
Catherine Skow is the director of retail operations for downtown's Encore! boutique. She says the move is a big relief and has already attracted more customers.
"People are out and about and saying yes. More and more people are getting vaccinated, so I feel safer getting out and yes we have enjoyed more customers coming in."
While it's a big move for local businesses the county only maintained Red Tier status for about a month in 2020 before a surge in November prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to push several counties back to the state's most restrictive tier.
There is always a possibility that if cases surge again, the county could move back into the Purple Tier, but this time around Corson thinks the odds are in Kern's favor.
"Especially with that new tool of the vaccine being here, we are really optimistic that we are going to continue to progress in the right direction through this tier."
Corson would go onto say that Kern County is actually meeting two of the three metrics of the Orange Tier so if the county keeps that up it can be moving even further into the state's reopening system.
If Kern County meets all three of the metrics, public health said it could move into the Orange Tier by April 7th.
Along with announcing Kern's move into the Red Tier the Board of Supervisors also provided an update on vaccination efforts.
Carrigan broke down the numbers saying health officials have administered about 230,000 vaccines. Of those roughly 75,000 people are considered fully vaccinated.
Carrigan explained that at the rate the county is receiving the COVID vaccine it will take 45 weeks to get the rest of the 16 and older population vaccinated. If a vaccine is approved for those under 16 it will take 68 weeks to get the entire population vaccinated.