U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams visited Bakersfield on Monday, urging residents to keep hope alive during what he portrayed as the final stretches of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know that there is a lot of fatigue,” he said. “I know it feels like this has been going on for forever, but honestly, we are I think over the hump.”
He said that the nationwide positivity rate that has fallen to around 5 percent, with the addition of the prospect of a vaccine by the end of the year or early next year, have given him hope that the worst of the pandemic is in the past. Still, he encouraged Kern County residents to continue following the common sense community health guidelines known as the “Three W’s” to bring community transmission low enough to open up the economy.
“It’s important to understand, we don’t have to wait until we get a vaccine to drive down community transmission,” he said. “If you all take the measures now to lower community spread — wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance — we could very quickly get into a better situation in safely reopening.”
Dr. Adams has traveled to different parts of the country over the last several weeks. In Bakersfield, he visited a testing site and isolation units at the Kern County fairgrounds, toured Kern Medical and held a community roundtable with local businesses, education leaders and medical professionals.
“We really need to get away from this idea of health versus the economy,” he said. “Several business owners brought up their concerns about their need to get businesses open, and I share those concerns with them. And I said, the quickest way to get businesses open is to drive down community transmission rates.”
He brought up the state of Arizona and New York City, which have seen lowered positivity rates after experiencing high levels of community spread. Even the nation’s problem areas could see significant improvements in as little as two to four weeks, he added.
The key, which was echoed at several points during a press conference held Monday at the Kern County Public Health Services Department building, was personal responsibility.
“What we’re striving for as a community, obviously is to continue to suppress the spread of the virus so we can get more of our business sectors and our schools open,” Supervisor Zack Scrivner said during the press conference. “It comes down to personal responsibility. There’s a limit to how much government can do. We need everyone to concentrate on the ‘Three W’s’ and taking this virus very seriously.”
So even though some Kern County residents have let their guard down by hosting or attending a gathering with extended family members and friends, local officials encouraged residents to follow community guidelines to beat back COVID-19 before the vaccine comes out.
“We really can make a difference. We are so close to having a big change here,” said Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh. “We want to see schools open. We want to see our restaurants open. We want to see our houses of worship open, but it is up to us together.”