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Coronavirus levels stabilize after increase

Kern County’s coronavirus metrics stabilized in the latest weekly update after an increase the previous week.

On Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health released coronavirus statistics for all counties in the state for the time period between May 2 and May 8. Previously, Kern had been experiencing a steady decline in COVID-19 spread before the increase.

But on Tuesday, levels fell slightly, although they were still higher than the lows two weeks ago.

In the latest update, Kern County experienced a rate of 3.2 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. That’s down from a rate of 3.4 cases per 100,000 residents last week, but above 2.8 cases per 100,000 residents two weeks ago.

Kern County also logged a testing positivity rate of 1.6 percent, down from 1.7 percent a week earlier and up from 1.3 percent two weeks ago.

For the second week in a row, the county’s health equity metric was 1.9 percent. Defined as the testing positivity rate for the poorest quarter of the county’s census tracts, the health equity metric is intended to ensure counties focus on all socioeconomic areas with virus prevention efforts.

The county remained in the orange tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy for the sixth straight week. The second least restrictive of four tiers, the orange tier allows many business and social activities that had been prohibited for months, but keeps the county from opening as fully as possible.

To meet the least restrictive, yellow tier, metrics, the county would need to report a case rate of less than two cases per 100,000 residents each day, a testing positivity rate of less than 2 percent and a health equity metric of less than 2.2 percent.

Although Kern County’s testing positivity rate and health equity metric are lower than the yellow tier threshold, all three metrics must meet the requirement for two weeks before a county can descend to a lower tier.

The earliest the county could qualify for the yellow tier is now June 2. The state will likely move “beyond the Blueprint” on June 15 if vaccines remain available and hospitalization rates are stable. At that time, new guidance will come out that is expected to reopen the economy to its fullest extent since the initial lockdown.

The Kern County Public Health Services Department said in a news release vaccination remains the safest and quickest way to immunity. Those 12 and older are encouraged to get vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for individuals 12 and older while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the Moderna vaccine have been approved for those 18 and older.

The local Public Health nurses hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day of the week at 661-677-4177.

The Kern County Fairgrounds Mass Vaccination Clinic offers the Pfizer vaccine. The clinic operates from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Although not required, appointments can be made at myturn.ca.gov.