County leaders scored a major victory last week when Kern won approval from the state to accelerate the reopening of the local economy.
In order to do so, the county had to show that COVID-19 activity in Kern had stabilized by meeting certain epidemiological benchmarks. The county also had to demonstrate its preparedness to deal with the virus and provide a written containment plan.
The epidemiological benchmarks were the biggest obstacle for the county.
The data Kern provided to the state on Tuesday ultimately satisfied the criteria but the county is expected to maintain those levels to some degree. And that could prove difficult.
In fact, a review of available data by The Californian showed that Kern County fell below the state benchmark just a few days after it submitted its data to the state on one critical metric, stabilized rates of hospitalization.
There are no concrete details yet available on how strictly the county must remain in compliance with the benchmarks nor what happens if it doesn't. The California Department of Public Health has said that counties may need to slow their reopening or tighten modifications. County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said this week that any such determination would be made in consultation with state health authorities.
The specific virus activity benchmarks the county had to meet were:
● A stable or decreasing rate of hospitalization of COVID-19 patients over the previous seven days or fewer than 20 people hospitalized in the previous seven days.
● The percentage of tests for COVID-19 that were positive in the previous seven days was less than 8 percent or fewer than 25 cases of the virus per 100,000 residents.
The Californian has used available local data to show how Kern met the current benchmarks.
Stable COVID-19 hospitalization rate or fewer than 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients
Counties must show a stable hospitalization rate or have no more than 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on any day in the past 14 days.
Kern County has not had fewer than 20 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 since April 1; therefore, Kern had to show a stable hospitalization rate, demonstrated by a seven-day average of daily percent change in the total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients of less than 5 percent.
The county submitted its data to the state Tuesday, using figures available through Monday, when its rate of change in hospitalizations was minus 1 percent. The rate rose to 5 percent on Wednesday, just above the state limit, because of 12 new hospitalizations between Monday and Wednesday. However, hospitalizations then decreased by four patients, and by Thursday the rate was back below the benchmark.
Less than 24 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days or a positivity rate over the previous seven days of less than 8 percent
Kern County did not meet the state's per capita virus incidence metric, as shown in the accompanying graphic, but Kern did meet the alternate metric, a positivity rate under 8 percent, which was enough to satisfy the state's requirement.
Kern reported a positivity rate of 6 percent, with 218 positive tests out of 3,552 total tests done between May 12 and May 18. Precise data is not publicly available for The Californian to show this metric in graphic form.
Total cases, deaths and tests performed in Kern
The county was not required to meet benchmarks in these areas.