Kern is still in the purple tier, but officials say COVID metrics are improving

Posted at 5:20 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 20:20:29-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Over the past couple weeks, Kern County officials have been expressing frustration with the state over what they call penalties being put on Kern. Those penalties are still in effect, but Thursday morning's COVID press briefing had a more optimistic tone, as Kern moves closer to the state's red tier.

“If Mr. Constantine is expressing optimism and confidence that we are trending down and meeting numbers than we share that level of confidence," said County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

As it stands today, Kern County is still in the most restrictive tier for our economy, but officials are optimistic we’re moving closer to a tier that would allow restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and places of worship to open indoors with limited capacity.

In order to get there, Kern County needs to have fewer than seven cases per 100,000 people, as well as fewer than 8 percent of people testing positive for the virus.
“So all of these numbers have improved," said Matt Constantine, Director of Kern Public Health.

Right now, Kern’s unadjusted numbers show a case rate of 6.3, and 6.5% of people testing positive. But when artificially adjusted by the state, Kern's case rate is boosted over the threshold to 7.2.

The state is adding the artificial adjustment to countys whose COVID testing numbers are below the state average, something that Alsop has expressed frustration over.

“So as it stands now, we need to test about 690 new individuals per day to get that adjustment to be removed from our case rate," Constantine said.

It’s for that reason Kern officials are taking steps to get more people tested in the county. Last week the Board of Supervisors brought forward an emergency item that encourages county employees to get tested multiple times between now and the end of the year voluntarily. Alsop is also asking all Kern residents to get tested too.

“You’re helping our business community get open quicker, you’re helping kids get back into school quicker. So we thank you for putting an effort into going to get tested," Alsop said.

Whether Kern is able to shake the adjustment or not, once the county meets the requirements for the red tier, it has to maintain those numbers for two straight weeks before advancing.