BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With the arrival of the omicron variant in Kern County, public health officials are updating county supervisors on plans in place to keep the health care system ready for another potential surge.
“As we have expected for the past couple of weeks, we have received our first batch of confirmed cases of omicron here in Kern County as we will report 10 cases of omicron in Kern County as of today,” said Brynn Carrigan, Director of Kern County Public Health.
First delta, and now omicron, the second COVID-19 variant of concern was officially identified in Kern County as of Tuesday.
Where the CDC stands on boosters, isolation and quarantine
While 52 percent of Kern’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, Brynn Carrigan said the efficacy of the vaccine is slightly decreasing.
“So as omicron has emerged and is now actively transmitting. We’re seeing that the immunity that has developed from these vaccines has waned enough so that transmission is occurring even amongst those that are vaccinated.”
But Carrigan added, vaccines still help.
“However, we are seeing that the vaccine especially if you are boosted when you are eligible is holding up against severe illness, hospitalization, and even death.”
What is the Omicron Variant?
First identified: South Africa
Spread: May spread more easily than other variants, including Delta.
Severe illness and death: Due to the small number of cases, the current severity of illness and death associated with this variant is unclear.
Vaccine: Breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are expected, but vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Early evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Omicron variant can spread the virus to others. All FDA-approved or authorized vaccines are expected to be effective against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
Treatments: Some monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against infection with Omicron.
Just three weeks ago, the Kern County case rate was 11.7 percent. On Tuesday, the Kern County rate stood at 15.2 percent. With this increase in cases, Carrigan said the county is preparing for the expected surge in cases and hospitalizations.
“We currently have two state staff teams that are in kern county, that have expanded both regular and ICU hospital bed capacity at Kern Medical and at Adventist health Bakersfield, and Delano.”
Carrigan said this adds 25 ICU beds and 15 regular hospital beds to Kern’s capacity and more help is on the way.
What You Need to Know
- New variants of the virus are expected to occur. Taking steps to reduce the spread of infection, including getting a COVID-19 vaccine, are the best way to slow the emergence of new variants.
- Vaccines reduce your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
- COVID-19 booster doses are recommended for adults ages 18 and older. Teens 16–17 years old who received Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines can get a booster dose if they are at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series.
Carrigan explained that three state staff strike teams should arrive by Monday to help three hospitals with ambulance and emergency room care. The assistance will remain in place until the end of February. Then needs will be reassessed at that time.
As of right now, the state’s modeling still shows a significant surge in early March.
“The worst-case scenario in the state’s modeling suggests a significant surge peaking in March with 986 cases on March 4th and 716 hospitalizations on March 11th.”
23ABC IN-DEPTH: What are the Vaccine Rates in Kern County?
- Kern County Public Health said that as of this week, more than one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Kern County residents.
- 52.2-percent of Kern County's eligible population - five years and older - is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- 59-percent are partially vaccinated.
- 28.4-percent of those fully vaccinated are boosted in Kern County.
And with COVID-19 vaccines now available for ages five and older the Boys and Girls Club of Kern County is hosting free vaccine clinics this week. The next clinics will be held Wednesday and Thursday at the Armstrong Youth Center on Niles Street until 7:30 p.m. and Thursday at the Stockdale Club on Young Street until 6 p.m.
Daniel Wolcott, president of Adventist Health Kern County said the expansion is a collaboration through their hospital, the county, and the state.
“We have overflow beds activated at Adventist Health Bakersfield in the ICU and those overflow beds are made possible through the staffing that’s been provided by the state.”
But Wolcott said the influx of patients they are seeing at this time is not from COVID-19.
“What we are seeing is significant volumes of other types of illnesses, that are requiring hospitalizations. Our COVID volume is at the lowest it’s been in several months, but total volume is exceedingly high at our hospitals.”
Carrigan added they are also seeing this same trend across the county.
“We’re seeing a significant number of people who don’t have COVID-19 that are gravely ill and need hospitalization as well so we need to take all that into consideration and do everything that we can as individuals to prevent getting sick with COVID-19 and just improve our overall health.”
That’s why the county is continuing to work with the state to provide hospitals with more resources.
"We also have an ambulance strike team consisting of 5 ambulances and 10 crew members and a supervisor assisting with ambulances response to 911 calls in Kern County,” said Carrigan.
Public health also announced three strike teams from the state will arrive this Monday and will be stationed at three Kern County hospitals to help with offloading people from the ambulance and emergency room care. Those teams are expected to stay until at least the end of February.