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Kern County officials express frustration with newest COVID-19 guidelines from the governor

Posted at 11:38 AM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 20:32:35-04

During Thursday's somewhat heated public health briefing, officials discussed how Kern County fits into California’s new tier system. 23ABC’s Austin Westfall explains why Kern County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop says he's frustrated with the state.

Alsop expressed that frustration Thursday morning, denouncing some of the obstacles that Kern County is facing from the state in order to reopen the economy, specifically the state’s new tier-based system.

In order for Kern County to advance to the Red Tier, which would allow restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and places of worship to open indoors with limited capacity, the county would need to have fewer than seven cases per 100,000 people, as well as fewer than eight percent of people testing positive for the virus. Right now, Kern County is at 7.8 and 9.9 respectively. But Alsop said this weekend, the county was thrown a curveball by the state.

“Governor, Kern County joins other counties in demanding, stop moving the goalposts on us. We demand you work more closely with us. We are demanding you not arbitrarily assign a penalty because our population is not going in to get weekly tests. We are demanding that you not continue to make this situation harder on our business community and on our kids than it already is," said Alsop.

The state is now penalizing any county that is below the state average for the number of testing. Since Kern is below the average, the county's number has been artificially increased 1.4 percentage points.

“They are artificially adjusting our case rate from 7.8 to 9.2 which puts us further from meeting that next tier,” explained Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine.

Alsop argued that it was a "methodology they came up with that doesn’t really have any scientific basis.”

In order to meet the state’s testing average, Kern Public Health said the county would need to perform an additional 877 tests on average per day. Alsop said the county has ample testing, so arbitrarily assigning penalties does not make sense.

“We don't know what it is intended to achieve, other than to keep our economy locked down the way it is for a longer period of time, and to keep parents out of work, and their children out of the classroom longer.”

23ABC reached out to the state for clarification on how the penalty works. However, they did not respond by news time.

It’s important to note that at Thursday’s news conference, health officials also said the county is still seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases as of late. They did, however, also announce 10 new deaths.

You can watch the full press conference below:

Kern County Health Department Coronavirus Update: September 10, 2020