Surge in COVID-19 cases puts Kern County on state's monitoring list

Governor Gavin Newsom Press Briefing
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 22:40:07-04

For the past three days, Kern County has seen a large number of new cases reported by the public health department. Since Saturday the total cases in Kern have jumped by more than 2,000. However, officials say there have been no new deaths.

Nevertheless, these increasing numbers are putting Kern County back on the state's monitoring list according to public health. That means industries such as gyms, hair and nail salons, and houses of worship in the county will now have to close in-door operations as early as Friday.

According to public health, there were 787 new cases reported Monday bringing the total to more than 9,200. Sunday officials reported 719 new cases and Saturday just under 500 new cases were reported. As a result of the rapid rise in numbers over the weekend, Kern County Public Health confirmed that the county will be moved to the state's monitoring list Tuesday.

23ABC's Bayan Wang took a look at the sudden spike of cases in Kern County.

The large increases in COVID-19 cases within the county are exactly why the county is on the state's watch list. 23ABC learned on Monday that those numbers aren't necessarily a reflection of a spike in cases, but instead a result of more resources the county now has to provide more accurate stats.

"We had to expand here at public health. And now we have much more staff devoted to working through this really detailed complex process to get information out to the community," explained Kern County Public Health spokesperson Michelle Corson.

Public Health said their staff was struggling to keep up with the volume of COVID-19 testing sky-rocketing in Kern County.

"That has taken everything to a new level," continued Corson. "As far as the incoming on the system that we had in place, that wasn't sufficient to handle it."

But starting last week the department has tripled the workforce in various departments, according to Corson.

"So we are now working with the surge of cases we have been receiving. And we have been working on that last week. So that is what is being reflected in the data that is being shown on our dashboard."

That dashboard shows record numbers in the last three days, with nearly 500 additional cases reported Saturday, 719 cases on Sunday, and 787 cases on Monday.

The spike has landed Kern County on the state's watch list for three consecutive days which means on Tuesday the county will transition onto the state's monitoring list, prompting various businesses such as gyms, houses of worship, non-critical sectors, and hair salons to halt indoor business starting Friday.

"That is the message we want to give to our community to be prepared for that," said Corson.

To minimize the effect on some businesses Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that barbershops, nail, and hair salons can now operate outdoors. However, one local salon owner said that would be difficult to accomplish.

Newsom: Moving indoor operations outdoors

"We're not going to move our operations outside," explained Ramona Potts, owns the Atomic Kitten salon. "It would work better for barbers who are just doing haircuts. We can't do any facial work. We couldn't do hair color unless we hooked up a hose and that would be all cold water. It just doesn't make sense here in Bakersfield where it's super hot out."

The big question now is how long will these businesses need to adhere to this order? According to public health that's at the governor's discretion.