BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — There was hope that health officials would announce Tuesday when the San Joaquin Valley could leave the latest stay-at-home order but because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns over ICU capacity, that order has been extended indefinitely. 23ABC's Alex Bell breaks down what this extension means.
According to the latest numbers reported by the state, Kern County only has 10 ICU beds available for the entire county which according to the state tracker is the lowest number of beds available since the tracking began back in March. When 23ABC checked in with local hospitals like Mercy Southwest and Mercy downtown they said they remain near ICU capacity and the situation remains critical with staffing.
While the announcement came as no surprise for lots of people, it's still a harsh reality for health experts like Corson.
"This is hard for us to hear. This is difficult. Because what this is an indicator of is we are not progressing in the right direction," said Michelle Corson, spokesperson for Kern County Public Health.
On Tuesday, Dr. Mark Ghaly the California Health and Human Services secretary said the regional stay-at-home order has been extended indefinitely for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California due to a lack of ICU capacity. The stay-at-home order will remain in effect and can only be lifted when ICU projections are above or equal to 15%.
"The order will remain because those projections do not show the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California have projected four weeks out ICU capacity over 15%. So, they will remain under the order for the time being;" said Ghaly. "We essentially are projecting that the ICU capacity is not improving in Southern California and San Joaquin Valley and the demand will continue to exceed capacity."
The latest stay-at-home order impacting Kern County began on December 6th and banned things like outdoor dining, but it was set to expire Monday after a three-week period. However, COVID-19 patients continue to flood hospitals through the state with over 2 million positive cases being reported.
Kern County has also seen a jump in cases recently.
"Here in our region as well as Kern County we're seeing impacts on our health care system and that's frightening," said Corson.
The California state website's latest report shows that Kern County has only ten ICU beds available for the entire county. This number does not include pediatric beds which can also be used as a backup. 23ABC reached out to the state to confirm the number of pediatric beds but we haven't heard back at this time.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas just ending and the New Year coming up this week, it's causing even more concern. Corson said there has been no discussion to do any localized enforcement but asked residents to adhere to the order and will respond to complaints and reach out to businesses. She added that health officials understand there is COVID fatigue in the community and people want to get back to normal life.
"We know that those are prime times also for COVID-19 to spread and it's proving to be the case this holiday season," explained Corson. "We just need to hang in there a little bit longer and we feel like the tide is going to change with the vaccine and once we get through the holidays."
23ABC also learned between Adventist's three locations in Kern County, they are licensed for 50 beds and so far 35 COVID-19 patients are in those ICU beds. A spokesperson with the hospital also said they do have surge plans in case they need more.