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Governor Gavin Newsom addresses Kern County and announces new guidelines for businesses

Governor Gavin Newsom addresses Kern County's plan to reopen faster
Posted at 5:47 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 20:47:59-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — As the state aims towards the smooth transition of reopening certain businesses, Kern County wants to open at a faster rate than afforded so far.

Governor Gavin Newsom acknowledged the county's desire to reopen at his daily state address Tuesday.

Newsom said county officials spoke with his office about "certain conditions that they would like our health directors to consider to allow a modification of sorts," to criteria for reopening county businesses.

County officials have been outspoken about their yearning for more authority on reopening Kern County on their own terms, but state guidelines have created a roadblock.

The county has met all criteria, except for two measures which include COVID-19 case and death rates in the county.

According to the state, no more than one person can test positive in the county per 10,000 residents within the last two weeks. Kern County experiences about 30 new cases a day, according to Director of Public Health Matt Constantine.

Additionally, no deaths can occur in the last two weeks. Kern County has experienced more than 10 deaths within the last two weeks, more than half of them coming from Kingston Healthcare Center, a senior living facility operated by the state.

County officials say those incidents have significantly skewed Kern County's death rate, preventing them from reopening.

"Positive COVID-19 cases and deaths at a single congregant care facility, overseen and regulated by the State of California, and located in the City of Bakersfield metro area, significantly skew infection and death totals for the entire 8,000 square-mile county," county spokeswoman Megan Person said.

"The County continues to seek the State’s immediate review and modification of its recently issued epidemiologic stability guidance, and strongly encourages the State to place priority emphasis on testing, containment and hospital capacity as the determining factors in granting increased local flexibility and latitude in reopening."

Newsom stated that health directors will be evaluating the county's concerns and will decide on how to proceed.